Hotel world

So, another trip to the Great Wen, and now I'm sitting here in my rather drab hotel room with a view of backs-of-buildings and the small hotel garden where I had a lunchtime glass of wine on Saturday, managing despite the setting to do a bit of luxuriating in the unexpected sun. From time to time someone in our organisation makes an effort to find somewhere else to stay, and our current President hankers after a neighbouring institution whose rates nearly doubled overnight after a refit. At her instigation I investigated a number of alternatives, small, family hotels that she thought looked pleasant from the outside – I'm glad to say I resisted booking any of them until I had done a bit of research, because I quickly came up against horror stories about bedbugs and grubby sheets. We may, as a very small charity, be on a tight budget, but there is a limit to what can be tholed (good Scottish word that, inadequately translated as "put up with"). So I remain a regular at this dreary establishment, which at least provides clean sheets, adequate space for working, and hot water, as well as the worst coffee I have ever tasted. Good thing I'm a tea drinker.

To be fair, the view this visit from one of the top floors was a little more diverting, since it included the dome of the Reading Room at the British Museum, and the sinuous glass roof which covers the Great Court. By contrast, I also discovered that by leaving a crack in the curtains to allow some cooler air in, I could see the illuminated top of Centre Point while I lay in bed. For those who don't know it, this is alternately an icon of '60s architecture or a carbuncle which lay empty for years after completion. I lean towards the carbuncle school myself. Also in the view are both the BT Tower and Senate House, pictured below. Senate House, which houses the University of London Library, is a building that never fails to amaze me, making an assertively un-British statement at odds with our predisposition to classicism or to the historical vernacular which Prince Charles would prefer us to celebrate. Not surprisingly, it is much used in film and television: v
iewers of Jeeves and Wooster may recall it as Stuyvesant Towers, where Bertie lived in Manhattan, and it was effectively used as the London Tower in the 1980s' serialisation of The Day of the Triffids, the latter very much in keeping with the claim that Hitler planned to make his base there following a successful invasion of Britain; it is also supposed to have provided the inspiration for Room 101 in Orwell's 1984. After dark, with the frontage lit up, it is admittedly very striking, but to me it still looks like a paean to facism.

Photo: An Siarach


  1. Oh those small London hotels! The College never rose above them and I still have the bite marks to prove it! Is anyone using Centre Point these days? I got so that I didn't even see it any more, which is a feat in itself really!

  2. Apparently Centre Point is used by the Confederation of British Industry - appropriate enough for such an ugly building, I suppose. I could have gone in for a look - it was Open House at the weekend - but thought on the whole I wasn't interested! There were lots of more attractive places, too, but on Sunday afternoon when I was free my London allergy had taken a firm hold, leaving me spluttering, squinting and sneezing, so I went to sleep instead.

  3. gosh, a long, long way from the days in 1971 and 1977 when we stayed at little bed & breakfasts (before the term was even used in the US) and they were always clean and cheap; though I do recall one that had a floor-by-floor bell to wake the guests each morning. Then when we stayed, with our kids, in 1992, we stayed in a very high class, high price, cottony sheet-oriental rugs on the wall place for $200 a night! (and now that isn't so much at all) And what is 'great wen' heck a place can't be bad if Bertie stayed there. :<)

  4. Like William Cobbett, who coined the Term "Great Wen" (meaning a huge pustule), I don't much like London these days, though I felt much more warmly towards it when I was young. If only there weren't so many people...


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