Another Train, Another Hotel

Greetings from a hotel room several hundred miles from home. I’m in Leeds for the night, ahead of a day spent in quite the most imposing building I visit among the various client sites I travel to – I gather locally it’s known as “The Kremlin”. The journey here was entirely unremarkable – the trains connected and ran mostly on time, and my seat reservation landed me next to somebody much like myself – busying himself with reading books, or watching TV shows on a tablet for the majority of the journey north. It’s a shame the same cannot be said for the man that stood staring at me over the back of the seat in front as we waited to leave Kings Cross station.

I caught his eye, which would normally stop a stare, but he kept looking at me, like I was some kind of nuisance. It puzzled me for quite some time, before I finally figured it out. He had no seat reservation, so was trying his luck. Seeing me stride into the train carriage, dump my bag, and make myself comfortable must have caused something to snap in the “everything is unfair” part of his brain. It didn’t help that he had hooded eyelids, causing him to look down at everybody like he disapproved of them. He moved seats three times during the journey north – as passengers joined the train, claiming the seat he was sitting in each time. I ended up feeling a little bit sorry for him – not too much though, given the staring episode earlier.

The train journey north takes four hours. Granted, nearly an hour of that is spent nagivating the London Underground before turning north, but still – four hours is a long time. I filled it with the final episode of Downton Abbey, which we have been re-watching at home, and reading a book that arrived in the post this morning. Note to self – don’t watch sentimental TV show episodes on the train, especially if you don’t have any tissues to hand. The book arrived in a parcel from Amazon this morning – a belated birthday present from my parents. “Just for Fun”, by Linus Torvalds – telling the story of how Linux came to be. It’s an old book – first published in 2002 – but still interesting.

The great thing about a good book is that it serves both as a story telling device, and as a time machine. Before I knew it the train was approaching it’s destination, or “termination point”. I always smile when they announce that a train will terminate at the next station – I envision a line of robots waiting at the platform to cut the passengers down. This platform was surprisingly empty, aside from people waiting to meet the arriving train. I saw an elderly woman run towards a young man and embrace him as he stepped from the train – I couldn’t help smiling as I walked past them hugging on the platform.

Twenty minutes later – after a walk through the middle of the city, I arrived at the hotel, and was greeted by perhaps the most polite, enthusiastic, and efficient hotel staff I have ever experienced. He was perhaps in his early twenties, Polish, with a short beard. She was perhaps a little older, obviously teaching him, and Spanish. While he looked me up on the system, she pulled my room card from the file alongside and handed it to me.

“Welcome back – we see you have a gold membership – thankyou for your loyalty!”

I looked up, and was surprised at both of their smiles – I know they were following a script, but it was still nice. Of course the trainee then messed things up slightly by asking if I had stayed with them before – the Spanish girl laughed, prodded him, and stage-whispered “he’s a gold member!”. We all smiled, I took my key, and wandered towards the lifts, with breakfast times being volunteered over my shoulder as I waved thanks.

The room is a huge surprise. It would appear the hotel chain have finally invested in new decor, and on the whole it’s rather wonderful – modern, and somehow more spacious than before. I quickly figured out how they managed that particular Tardis trick – the desk has gone. In place of a desk is now an oddly shaped table, and a rather nice chair. The table has the kettle on it, and is too high to bother putting a laptop on – but the chair is kind of perfect if you put the computer on your lap. Oh – and finally the hotels get it – the bed has electric points on both sides – I can charge my phone next to the bed, like at home. Perhaps the most unexpected “new thing” is a mobile phone in the room – and the freedom to carry it with you into town. It’s rather crafty really – the home screen is locked to show a portal of amenities – bars, clubs, and local attractions – with maps, adverts, and so on – it obviously pays for itself indirectly through advertising built into the device. You can still use the phone though, and the web browser, and a few staple apps such as Google Maps. I’m massively impressed with it. I won’t use it, but I’m impressed with it.

Right. I suppose I should go find something to eat. I’m toying with the idea of either buying a ready-made salad from the local supermarket, or getting a pizza from the restaurant next door.

(a few minutes pass)

I walked past the pizza restaurant, which was already quite busy given how early in the evening it was. There seemed to be quite a number of couples sitting at smaller tables along the windows – obviously a tactic to entice other people in. I’ve never really thought about it before, and now I’m going to look at the layout of tables in all restaurants. Are the family tables in the middle to prevent potential customers from witnessing the mayhem and chaos that most family meals turn into, or is it really just a case of filling the windows with nice looking people? What if you’re dressed scruffily – do you get seated away from the window? I wonder if you can be turned away from a restaurant for looking terrible?

I didn’t stop. I continued walking to the supermarket, in search of salad and orange juice. I know – I know – work is picking up the tab, so I could have sat in the restaurant on my own, but I kind of hate doing that. If only I had a far flung friend from the distant internet to go eat dinner with. Alas, I do not – which explains the pasta salad, wrap, and bottle of orange juice I carried back to the hotel a few minutes later.

On the way back to the hotel I walked past a seemingly popular yoga place – filled with row upon row of athletic young women contorting their bodies in unison with each other. I had to look away in the end, as they bent double directly in front of me. I guess I *could* have looked, but would then have died if anybody had seen. I’m afraid living in a house with four women has done this to me – I will provide a level of decorum even if others do not (as witnessed when Miss 14 ran across the landing naked to turn her music down the other evening).

So here I am. Sitting in the hotel room. I think I’ll read my book. Feel free to email me, and rescue me from myself.

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