I‘d hate to calculate how many weeks of my life I have spent living in hotels.  This excludes holidays; I’m talking about work.  I used to run one-week residential courses for managers in hotels booked by my clients.  This took me all over the UK and often abroad to delightful places such as Amsterdam, Rome, Monaco, Sydney and Singapore.  I once was once befriended by the manager of a hotel that I visited frequently and one evening, after a few on-the-house whiskeys, he told me in strictest confidence that people quite often committed suicide in hotels and the Fawlty Towers exploits involved in smuggling bodies out of the hotel without upsetting the other potentially suicidal guests.

I have never felt in the least suicidal in hotels, or anywhere else come to that.  Wait – there was one fleeting occasion when I visited Beachy Head and read a notice board put there by the Samaritans.  Paradoxically, it made me wonder what it would be like to leap, but the idea was quickly pushed aside and I went cheerfully on my way.

No, I find life in hotels highly amusing.  Fire alarms go off in the middle of the night, radiators gurgle, floorboards creek; thieves visit the car park and steal aluminium wheels from desirable BMWs and Mercedes.  I have stayed in hotels where we were snowed up for a couple of days, where a flood swept through reception, where the electricity failed and where part of the roof was blown off in a gale.  I once stayed in a hotel in Northern Ireland during the troubles that was blown up by the IRA.  Fortunately they issued a warning first but the hotel was razed to the ground and where it once stood is, to this day, a car park.  And I haven’t even mentioned the business of getting the shower to work so that you don’t scald and/or flood the bathroom, deciphering the tiny lettering on those shampoo/gel  bottles, standing guard by the toaster in case another guest pinches your toast, tracking down the only jar of marmalade at breakfast and surreptitiously swapping  it with the apricot jam you have been given. 

An amusing thing happened to me in a hotel not far from my home.  All the course participants had come from far and wide and were residential, but I was able to sneak home each night and return for breakfast next morning.  On the last evening a formal dinner was scheduled for the participants and some visiting senior managers from their organisation. 

When the day’s business was done, everyone disappeared to their bedrooms to smarten up.  Not being residential,  I was temporarily homeless and needed somewhere to change into a suit.  A rather splendid syndicate room had been allocated to us throughout the week and Miss Hap suggested I could use it to get ready (if you haven’t yet met Miss Hap, please read ‘Introducing Miss Hap’).   I should explain that this wasn’t an ordinary syndicate room but the hotel’s master suite with a king size four poster bed,  a sumptuous sitting room full of arm chairs and a flat screen TV and, best of all, an Edwardian bathroom with mosaic tiles from floor to ceiling and a cast iron bath with vast taps and ball and claw feet.

As Miss Hap had predicted, the syndicate room was exactly as we had left it, with green baize still on the table and a couple of abandoned flip charts.  Rather than making a quick change into my suit, I decided I had time to soak in the sumptuous bath.  I ran the taps and filled it with hot water and added plenty of bubble bath.  I removed my clothes and lowered myself into the tingling hot water.  The bath was big enough for me to stretch out (I’m tall so this is a rare pleasure!) and I soon dozed off.

As I slept, I became dimly aware of a woman’s voice demanding to know what I was doing in her bath!   My explanations proved inadequate and she stomped off to reception – presumably to complain that there was a man in her bath (makes a change from ‘there’s a fly in my soup’).  Meanwhile, I hurriedly got out of the bath and tried to clean up as if nothing had happened.  I was half dressed when the phone rang and a puzzled receptionist said, ‘Who are you?’.  I decided this was one of those occasions when pulling rank might salvage some lost dignity, so I answered, ‘Why, this is Dr Peter Honey, the world renowned psychologist, and I have been taking a bath in my syndicate room’. 

 I’m not sure this story has a moral – except that if you are likely to be disturbed by a stranger whilst lying prostrate in a bath that might not be yours, be generous with the bubble bath.

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