“I think I know how a festival in the countryside works thank you very much.” – Caitlin Moran
“You’ll need to take a key. There’s no-one on the front-desk after midnight.”
She definitely said those words – I absolutely can’t deny that. The owner of the hotel definitely told me the – literally – key information that I would need to take a key with me. As far as her care of duty goes, she was faultless.
“So I could give you your key now, Ms Moran? You will need it, if you’re planning to come back late.”
Right now, I am remembering that she said that. I am remembering it very much. I am standing outside the hotel at 2am, in a state I would describe as “Party Level 9”, ringing on the doorbell, trying to alert front-desk to the fact I would like to be allowed back into my hotel. It’s very dark. It’s very cold. I need the toilet. I’m still dancing to “Get Lucky”, although there is no music playing any more. I’m holding a basket of fudge. I can’t remember why.
“From midnight to 7am, you can only gain access to the hotel with a front-door key.”
The problem was that, when the hotel-owner told me this very important piece of information, I was being quite droll “at” another writer I was trying to impress, and me and my three glasses of champagne felt that my funniness would be tragically diluted if I took a key -like some kind of key-needing nerd – in the middle of my immense rofl-ment. I couldn’t think of any cool, amusing way of doing some key-admin in the middle of my wry anecdote. So I merely performed an airy, “no key thanks” hand wave, and continued being amusing as I left the hotel.
Besides, I thought, there’s no way I won’t be able to get back into this hotel at 2am without a key. The whole point of hotels is that they let you in late at night. Hotels love you, and remember you, and let you in at 2am when you need to sleep in them. That’s how hotels work.
That is not how this hotel is working.
Party Level 9, I find, converts very quickly – in an emergency – to Bear Grylls Survival Level 9. It is obvious to me and my booze that I simply need to be hardy and practical about this completely non-responsive hotel, and find its weak spot. Like the Death Star. I simply need to find an unfinished ventilation shaft, and fly down it, using The Force, to gain access to my bed and toilet.
That’s why, five minutes later, a very drunk mother-of-two is climbing up a fire-escape onto the roof, to try and find an open window.
Infuriatingly, it seems every single person in this hotel is scared of moths – or, indeed, drunk women – flying in through the window, and has closed their window. This building is a completely sealed unit. I cannot gain access to this Elysian paradise of beds, toilets, my toothbrush and my nighttime bra.
Continuing to operate at Bear Grylls Survival Level 9, I start to crawl under a car in the carpark. “I’ll sleep here,” I think, nobly. “This Volkswagen Passat will act by way of an emergency shelter. It is just as well I am hardy, and practical.”
I cover myself with gravel – in the manner of cuttlefish, at the bottom of the ocean – to insulate myself, and keep myself warm. I am impressed by my recall of the survival tactics of cuttlefish.
Ten minutes later, I realise that cuttlefish are playing a very different game, survival-wise. They are trying to hide from predators, under gravel, successfully. I, on the other hand, am trying to warm myself, under gravel, unsuccessfully. I eat the fudge, hoping the calories will work by way of a duvet inside me. They do not. They just make me remember how much I hate fudge.
It’s now 3am. I give in, and ring my friend who is staying up in the mountains, and explain to them that, even though they are at a Hay-ish twelve times over the drink-drive limit, I am willing to risk them driving back down into town to pick me up, as I feel unready to crouch, covered in gravel, and urinate in the car-park of a hotel where Hanif Kureshi is staying. It feels against the ethos of a literary festival. Also, the only thing I would have to wipe myself on is a flyer about a lecture on Mary Woolstonecroft – and that feels entirely against my feminist principles. Imagine if someone took a picture of that. Wiping my bum on the mother of female liberation. My career would be ruined. I cannot sign off on that plan.
I spend the night on a couch in a farmhouse in the hills, and wake to find five children with Nerf guns, shooting at me. Still drunk, I accept their mother’s offer to borrow the biggest boy’s spare pants. They are Batman y-fronts. In the mirror, I look down at my super-hero flies. That’s what I’m doing today – wearing a boy’s pants.
Later, I come back down to the hotel, to pick up my untouched luggage.
“You didn’t take a key, Ms Moran?” the hotel-owner asks.
I give an airy hand-wave.
“No. I didn’t need it,” I reply.