My jobs over the last seven years, i.e since I freed myself from full-time servitude to a further education college, have occasionally meant staying overnight in a B&B. Staying in a B&B is an interestingly varied experience. The first B is generally not too bad. I have yet to come across a seriously uncomfortable bed. Sometimes there are nice touches – I stayed in a B&B in Ilkley a couple of years ago, which had fresh, yes fresh milk in the bedroom. This is almost unheard of. Almost invariably, even in semi-posh hotels, you get those UHT cartons which make, even with the small dab of milk I like, any beverage taste like it’s been specially and deliberately curdled.
But the second B is often a bit of a problem. There are two things. The first is that, although I am naturally garrulous anyway, you are frequently expected to give a full account of yourself to the proprietor or his or her minion, where you were born, what you are doing, what you think of VAT, your take on Kierkegaard (not really) – in short, when you’re thinking ahead, trying to stage-manage the day in advance, you have to make small talk or be written off as a sulker. This includes saying Hello and Have A Nice Etc to any other paying customers. And also, each B&B has its peculiarities, its rules, and you have to be inducted into them. And then (sigh) there is that fatal question: ‘Full English?’
Now, I only ever eat a piece of toast at home in the morning, so a feast of a fry is a rarity. And what the hell, I’ve paid for it. So after wrestling with my conscience, and lying to myself about my cholesterol, and my obvious excess in the weight department, I go for it. Which means that I have to eat too much and make small talk, when I should be preparing my brain-cells for the day ahead (during which I will be uncomfortable because of the quantity I’ve eaten). The worst instance of this was in Dublin, when I opted for the Full Irish, a job lot that included not only black pudding but white pudding (no idea) and which left me more or less incapable of walking for three days. Temptation is a terrible thing, and it is always punished. If there are any pearly gates, which I have to say I doubt, I suspect the key-keeper will produce all my B&B receipts and wave them under my nose before booting me towards eternal damnation.
So – and I promise this blog is not going to turn into a series of product promotions – three cheers for the Roman Rooms Hotel in Milton Keynes, where they have an entirely different system. What happens is that you get a bed and a fridge full of basics, so you can self-cater. No-one stands around and hassles you. Indeed, no-one stays in overnight to supervise you. You are asked to wash your own crockery etc. (I have once seen three painters and decorators look at this notice with complete disbelief – what? wash their own crockery? – but anyone else is very straight about the whole process). It is simplicity itself. I haven’t come across anywhere else when on my peregrinations – posh word, but what’s the point of having them if you can’t use them? – around the country.
I like simple systems. I like the Roman Rooms Hotel.
Now to start a world campaign to ban UHT milk, which must have the highest waste-of-plastic ratio of anything in the world.