...or the Soulless Inn, St Neots as its more commonly known.
From time to time , I have to travel on business, often spending a night away from home in order to have an early start the next day.
Truth is though, that most chain hotels in the UK are pretty awful compared to those in SA...and often are worse than anything I have yet stayed at in the US or Canada...where at least they wish you a 'happy day' as they treat you with contempt.
The "Basil Fawlty memorial school of Hotel Management" is clearly the training academy of choice for many hotel staff;with a side trip to the Prison Service finishing school for owners of B&Bs'....tiny beds in tiny attic rooms with threadbare towels and 27 different notices admonishing you from having any sort of joy or fun or happiness in the 8 hours that you are locked in the building before released for the "full English breakfast"...a life and death struggle with 13 kilos of hot fat and grease...the following morning,served only between 0700 and 0730.
Nevertheless,being an optimist,I try and enjoy it...I treat a night in a hotel or bed & breakfast as a mini-break,paid for as it is by someone else.
I always have at least five x 30 minute showers...I use all the towels...and I dry my man bits with the hairdryer in the morning...having moisturised them with the free hand lotion the night before.
Okay....sometimes I take my own moisturiser.
So last week I was due in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire,apparently the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell.
The very efficient staff at the agency for whom I occasionally work had booked me into the Soulless Inn in Huntingdon.
The day before my stay the staff from the Hotel phoned to say that they were having an unexpected refurbishment and as such were not able to accommodate me that night and had booked me into their Inn at St Neots...famous for nothing really.
The receptionist told me that there were 2 Inn hotels in St Neots and that I had been booked into the one which was next to the 'Brewers Fayre' pub....and not the one next to the Crown pub.
I don't even really need to write what happened next do I?
I caught a cab from the railway station and found that I hadn't been booked into the Brewers Fayre hotel...but of course into the other one...about a kilometre away...on the other side of a major road...with no pavement or sidewalk.
It was cold, dark and raining and the taxi had long gone.
Fortunately the woman checking in next to me had also been given incorrect details and also had to go to the other hotel...she had a car and kindly offered me a lift which I was very happy to take although the fleeting fear of being kidnapped and used as a sex slave by a group of dumpy middle aged women did cross my mind.
Still....there was nothing worth watching on TV that night so I decided to take the risk.
Some time later I got to the hotel.
It was one of those middle of the road hotels that advertise rooms for £39 a night but in actuality cost £75 a night.
It boasts all the necessary mod cons.
WiFi...for an added cost.
Direct dial phones...for an added cost.
Toothpaste...toothbrush...for an added cost
Freeview TV...only half of the channels work though and the TV itself has a screen of 15 inches.
No bars of soap in the room...no face cloths...
I sensed there was something wrong with the feng shui of the hotel
It appeared to be channelling Colditz PoW camp.
I checked in.
The receptionist was a pale, wan and scared looking young woman who spoke in a monosyllabic tone, and refused to look me in the eye.
She had clearly majored in Passive/Aggressive guest relations.
I was cold and tired and hungry.
"Can I get room service please?"
Room service ?
"Ja...can I get something from room service please?"
I looked at her....she was grinning like a maniac with an bloodied axe in one hand and a head in the other.
"Ja...you know...I order a meal...perhaps a bowl of soup...a sandwich....some fruit...and it gets delivered to my room?"
She started to laugh...tears running down her cheeks,snot pouring from her nose...
Room service...oh dear!!
She was on the floor laughing at this point.
It felt like a Tena Lady moment.
I waited whilst she composed herself.
It took some time.
We do not have any food services in the hotel....apart from the vending machine....that has a kit kat in it...no...you have to go to the pub...
"Okay....what about breakfast?"
Yes thats also in the pub...
"Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay....is there any chance of getting some ice?"
"Could I get an iron and an ironing board ?"
We only have one...And its out with a guest...I don't know who...and I don't know when it will be returned.
I phoned her every hour , on the hour and it never was returned.
So I did the old army trick of folding my trousers and shirt and putting them under the mattress.
And like in the army,they were still creased the next morning.
And when I lifted up the mattress, the duvet slipped back and saw the stain on the sheet.
It was dry....I was cold and tried and hungry...and hey...it didn't look too dissimilar to my own bed.
The next thing on the agenda then was dinner...
...which was to be taken in the aforementioned adjoining pub...
...a short walk away...
...but far enough to get soaked in the rain...
...and which was chock-a-block...
...with an hours wait for a table...
...for an £10 burger...
So I schlepped back to the hotel and got a list of local take-away places from the receptionist.
I decided on Chinese.
A prawn chow mein and wonton soup.
The soup looked and tasted like used dishwater with odd bits of unidentified green stuff in it...although bizarrely it smelt of marmite.
The wontons looked like ears that had fallen off of sweaty lepers....slippery and slimy, pale and poorly perfused.
The takeaway came without any utensils.
The hotel had no utensils expect the teaspoon in my room.
Just as well the soup as inedible then.
At least I could identify the prawn in the otherwise bland bowl of worms that was masquerading as chow mein.
And so to sleep.
And as always I was anxious that I might oversleep...and set 2 alarms.
I need not have worried though as my room turned out to be 100m from a major motorway and happily only 30m from the traffic circle/motorway exit...and the lumbering of 18 wheeler trucks all night kept me nicely awake.
Finally 0700 and off to breakfast at the pub next door.
I was the first customer.
Would you like the 'Full English' ?
"Ummmh...no...thanks...I think I'll have the 'continental breakfast' if I can...does that have fruit with it?"
Well what do you mean by 'fruit'...?
"Ummmh...an apple...a pear...an orange...perhaps some fresh fruit salad?"
It hasn't been delivered this week...
(This was thursday...seriously...was I the first person to ask for some fruit for my breakfast?)
"Okay then...what does the 'continental breakfast' include?"
Well theres brown bread...white bread...chocolate muffins...cornflakes...three kinds of yoghurt...all-bran flakes...and porridge
I could do you a nice plate of porridge...
"Okay...thank you...the porridge sounds good...very French..."
I decided to make some toast,a process involving putting bread onto a rotating circular wire mesh that revolved inside an industrial toaster.
It took about 1 minute and came out as white as when it went in.
I decided to cycle it for a second time.
About 15 seconds later smoke started to pour from the machine...
...the toast caught fire...
...the smoke alarm went off...
...flames then came licking out from the toaster...
...just as 5 other guests came through the door.
The waitress ran around the pub opening all the doors and windows and I spent the next 10 minutes eating the world's hottest porridge whilst the other guests sat and shivered and made rude remarks about foreigners...whilst pointing at me.
Still since I was the thinest person there...and they were even them shovelling mounds of sausages and beans and eggs and fried bread down their gullets,I felt safe enough...provided I didn't get between them and the buffet.
And then the debit card machine wouldn't work...so at least I got a free breakfast.
And then I went to work.