Charles Macfarlane

I once stayed overnight in Liverpool taking the place of another, travelling up in the evening.  Things started well enough  -  an IBM engineer, with whom I'd been working all day, gave me a lift to the station which got me on an earlier train  -  but that just lulled me into a false sense of security ...

There was no restaurant on the Brum train, and the buffet fare looked decidedly unappetizing.  Weighing up the chances of nutritional improvement for the second leg from Brum to Liverpool, I thought I'd better take my chances with what I could see then and there.  I chose the least offensive looking item, a scrofulous egg-and-cress sandwich, which, incredibly, later I was glad to have.

I then realised that in my rush to catch an earlier train, I'd left details of the hotel and the Liverpool office in my desk.  At Brum, with the last dying embers of my mobile's battery and only one on the reception indicator, I prayed and rang A at home.  Could he remember the name of the hotel he'd been booked into?  There was an agonising pause praying for the battery to last before he replied.

My heart sank on seeing the train for the longest part of the journey  -  an old bus on rails.  Restaurant car?  This beast would have expired at just the idea of pulling a mere drinks trolley!  Perhaps Brummies and Scouses don't like each other, because virtually noone else was aboard, yet we stopped at every possible station for noone to get on or off.  Further, thanks to a resonant frequency of the seating, I spent two hours going up and down like a turbocharged yo-yo.

Wearily letting myself into my room, I found myself in Antarctica.  With glaciers rapidly forming on my highest reaches, I wondered if the heating was on.  A vicious-looking box on the wall appeared relevant and I twiddled some dials.  Nothing.  But I wasn't head-hunted for the Technical Projects Team for nothing, there was also a switch on the wall nearby, and I jumped backwards as the beast roared into life.  Startled by the din, I wondered how I or anyone else in the hotel was going to sleep.  In a cupboard, I found a space-heater that looked less manic, and made a substitution.

To soothe my shattered nerves, I ordered a double Glenfiddich.  Although not Glenfiddich that came, it was at least a very acceptable Highland Malt, which, I assure you, didn't hang around long.

I hadn't gone to bed as early for ages, and I really needed a good night's sleep.  Indeed, after an initial disturbance of another inmate investigating the possibilities of the heating system, I was away.

I was woken from bliss at 0430 by a fire alarm.  You know what these situations are like, don't you?  If you dress and attend some fire-point in the freezing dead of night, it's embarrassing to find nothing is wrong and you're the only one there.  Basically, you'd rather risk premature incineration, wouldn't you?  After some hesitation I hit upon the bright idea of ringing reception to see if the emergency was real.  Everyone else must have woken quicker than I, because they took ages to answer.  I finally got back to sleep about two minutes before my morning call at 0700.

At breakfast, the tea was as weak as the proverbial gnat's ****, there was no unsweetened muesli, and I forgot to ask for brown toast.  I opened a pot that had casually resembled marmalade and found honey.  Honey?  Inspecting them all more closely, there was no marmalade in sight. 

I ask you, what an awful hotel!  Whoever heard of no marmalade for breakfast?


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