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: viewers 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.