Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can Check Out Anytime You Like...

I’m sitting alone in a hotel room. As a Responsible Adult, who does Important Work, I stay in hotels now, instead of on people’s couches. People’s couches are where wastrels, and ne’er-do-wells and Ryan Reynolds characters stay. I’m in town to use a copyright library, dammit! I’m a Visiting Researcher! We merit hotels!

Hotel rooms are odd spaces. For one thing, they always seem to be poorly lit. Oh, there will be several lights in the room, but they’ll all be quite weak. They also all operate on different switches, all located at different points around the room, so it’s usually impossible to turn all the lights on or off without doing a lap of the room. It’s unclear to me why this is. It does mean that one has the option to light only one or two small areas of the room, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. I’m not sure why I’d want to have the area by the door of my room lit while the rest of the room remains unlit, but I have a few more days here to think about it.

The furniture in most hotel rooms (or most hotel rooms that I can afford to stay in. While I am a Visiting Researcher, I am not yet a Jet-Setting Billionaire Playboy, and so my hotels of choice tend to be what I think is commonly called “budget”) is generally quite distinctive; obviously not expensive, but also not dirt cheap, and always sturdy, and strong, and plain, to avoid, I suppose, as much breakage or damage as possible, and so the need to spend money on replacing it. This plain furniture style, along with the muted colour schemes of browns and creams, and perhaps the odd burgundy, on the walls and carpets and bed spreads, lends the typical hotel room a clean, sparse, aesthetic which, to some seems aseptic, to me has a simple elegance about it. I reckon if the ancient Spartans were alive today, they’d live in rooms like these.

The cleaning staff in hotels always unsettle me slightly. Despite my high social standing as a roaming academic, I am, and so far always have been, without the financial means to employ even a small domestic staff. But even this mild class discomfort aside, the way that they clean my room while I am out makes me feel somewhat... perturbed. It always seems that the cleaning staff tidy not just for the sake of tidying, but also to make it obvious to the guest on their return that the room has been tidied. So, books that had been stacked neatly on the dressing table, are now stacked on the other side of the dressing table. Little things. The kind of things you might not consciously notice, but which your unconscious picks up on, making it feel like you’re the protagonist in a horror movie, and the crazed stalker has been in your house while you were out, and you’re only now realising that he still might be here! Maybe in your bathroom! Of course, if this were a horror movie house, then the soap dispenser probably wouldn’t be nailed to the wall to prevent me stealing the soap (no doubt made from rose petals crushed between a young virgin maiden’s thighs, and so insanely expensive, and in need of protection from rampaging Spartans, lured in by the aesthetic of the room), so I’m probably safe from stalkers. Probably...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Halcyon Days

And so the festive season has come to a close. After weeks of complaining about how Christmas has become too commercialised, and how Christmas shopping is so deeply vexing and frustrating, and how spending time at home with our familys left us feeling claustrophobic and inevitably led to arguments, and how we dislike the enforced celebrations of New Year’s and how the pubs are always too busy and cramped and invidious, we can at last settle into a few weeks of telling each other how depressing it is that the festive period is over, and we have nothing to look forward to for months.
There is a wonderful phrase in this year’s Doctor Who special discussing the meaning of Christmas (but avoiding any silly religious mumbo-jumbo, this being a secular sci-fi show produced by the godless, liberal heathens at the BBC), which describes the mid-winter period as being a time to celebrate our having made it half way through the darkness of winter, and beginning our slow but steady progress back towards the light and warmth of summer. This time is, for me at least, one of the best of the year; a time to look, janus-like, both back and forward over the previous and coming twelve months, mourning losses and celebrating joys, and rueing mistakes and vowing to learn from them, and thinking of ways to improve and enhance and refine one’s life and mind and body and soul.