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a blog by Chris Barrow

There are hotels – and there are hotels

Last night I finished the Reading workshop and drove up to Birmingham. My usual hotel was fully-booked and so I spent the night at the Ramada in Solihull – a finalist for “worst hotel of the year so far”. At an investment of 110 pounds I was able to check into my poorly decorated and minute room, in which three of the four lights were faulty. You know when you “know” it’s going to be a bad night? I “knew” at reception, when the duty manager and receptionist managed to avoid making eye contact and ignore me for a good 2/3 minutes whilst they read through some paperwork – the fact that the receptionist had food stains down the front of her jacket didn’t help. The hotel doubled as a pub in which a large group of overweight, foul-mouthed Brummies watched England play Poland in World Cup soccer and entertained themselves in the quiet moments with jokes about flatulence and gay drinking preferences. Leaving my half-finished pint of Fosters, I wandered back to my room, asking reception to deliver an iron so I could press some clothes. That was at 8.45pm. My phone calls at 9.30pm, 10.00pm and 10.30 pm explained, calmly, that I had a 5.00am alarm call the next morning and would appreciate the delivery of the iron before i could sleep. It arrived shortly after 10.30pm, after they had found the lost key to the cupboard. Usually, I rise at 5.00am, make a cup of team and write emails in my room. Not this morning – I dressed and left the place at 5.30am and drove to the Renaissance, where our workshop will be today. The staff at 5.45am greeted me with smiles – the overnight duty manager – Bob – asked me if I would like a drink and the cleaning ladies opened the kitchen and made me coffee and biscuits. We chatted about the corporate party that was held here last night, leaving the place looking a disaster area – but it didn’t matter, because I was in the hands of “people who listen and people who care.” Sometimes, the road warrior lifestyle is just horrible. Sometimes, you turn a corner and meet some really nice people.

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