The rabbit has been quiet of late - part of the reason is that I have been tearing about the Midlands plying my trade in assorted courts. Commuting is stupefyingly expensive on the early trains as well as exhausting (never an enthusiastic driver, I have sold my car - no regrets - and don't really do long distance hauls anyway). So, on an economy drive, I get the cheaper off peak trains and stay overnight in -erm - inexpensive hotels and B&B's (bed and breakfast accomodation for any overseas reader mystified by this acronym). I can tax deduct travel and hotel expenses but still have to find them upfront. I'm becoming some sort of expert on the cheaper end of the accommodation industry. Some thoughts...
The picture is very varied. Some cheap B&B's etc are actually fine - the odd one is very good value. The horrors are - well - horrific.
Let's call it the Fleapit Hotel, Stoke. I'd come up on the Sunday night and stayed in a very nice place a few minutes from the court at weekend rates. For weekdays the rate went up sharply so, remembering the economy drive, I rang the Fleapit Hotel for the Monday night when it became clear that my trial would go into Tuesday. They had vacancies - why am I not surprised? The Fleapit was at least secure. The front door key I was issued engaged in a battle with the lock just about every time. The interior was gloomy with the usual collection of rubbishy 'ornaments' on every available surface and fussy patterned carpets everywhere. The carpets had plainly seen better days and were apparently in the later stages of death by vacuuming. At least my room was clean and had plain white walls. Both room and bed were small but it was passable for one night. One particularly classy touch was the plastic mug supplied for in room tea/coffee. Presumably they didn't trust me not to break/steal a porcelain one.
I got talking to a guy who was also staying there. He was - I would guess - in his mid sixties.
'I've been put here by the council' He said. He'd just suffered relationship breakdown and had left his council place in Chesterfield and, coming from Stoke, had headed back there like an elderly homing pigeon.
'They're showing me a bungalow tomorrow. It's in a nice area. I'm going to take it. I've hit rock bottom. The only way is up for me after today'.
My heart really went out to him. He had no children and was a cancer survivor. I hope things worked out for him. It became clear that several of the residents had been put there by the council. Obviously this is done because the place is cheap but this seemingly guaranteed income stream provides whatever miscreant owns the place no incentive to improve it. One of the homeless persons was a friendly soul. I met him briefly in the evening and again at breakfast. He got up after eating his meal.
'One more beer and then I'll go to bed' he announced cheerily. It was about 8.30 in the morning. Another resident, a young man, looked as if he was in withdrawal.
I should say something about the surrounding area. Almost directly across the road from the Fleapit Hotel was a boarded up pub. They seem to do boarded up bigtime in Stoke with commercial and shop premises in various states of dereliction left, right and centre. I noted that 'Adult Shop' and 'Bargain Booze' seem to have survived this commercial holocaust as had a halal takeaway shop just down the road from the Fleapit. I had shish kofte and chips from there for dinner. It wasn't at all bad.
'See you later' said the duty staff bloke when I left in the morning.
'No you wont' I thought.
I moved on with much relief to Stafford and the Spittal Brook Inn - I've blogged on the Spittal Brook before and love the place and its gloriously crazy landlord to bits...
After a weekend back in London, it was Wolverhampton on Monday and a nice little earner. So up on off-peak train on Sunday night and, the economy drive still being on, a night in - let's call it - the Dog Hotel. I've looked at it online and comments by former guests are venomous. I copy and paste from the hotel website: 'All of our thirty-three bedrooms are en-suite, tastefully decorated and maintained to a high standard of cleanliness'. Erm, really??? A traveller review paints a somewhat different picture: 'Absolutely disgusting. Tiny, dirty and dangerous room. Stairway littered with broken plant pots, soil and dead plants (still there the morning we left). Reception area strewn with broken furniture and dirty bedding: an obvious health hazard and fire-hazard. 'Non-Smoking' room stank of smoke and had an ashtray near the bed. This was a week AFTER the smoking ban came into force, so clearly illegal. This hotel needs to be closed down before there is a serious accident there'.
Oh lighten up! Okay, the Dog is a dump but it is so awful it is pure comedy, unlike the Fleapit, which is just oppressive in its dreadfulness. I arrived to meet a very nice guy who seemed to be in sole overnight charge. The carpet in the foyer was waterlogged.
'We've had a flood' he explained.
'What caused it?' I asked.
'Just rain' he replied.
Righty... My room had a number of interesting features such as the wall mounted light which wasn't wall mounted any more but hung from the wall by its electrical cable. The en-suite had an interesting collection of cracked tiles. I thought at one point in the middle of the night that my bed was going to collapse. I wasn't doing anything energetic, just turning over. Usual nasty patterned flowery wallpaper and swirly threadbare carpet. Though as I say, the guy in charge was very affable and brought a late night beer to my room. Tuesday night, I stayed in a B&B in Leicester for pretty much the same price as the Dog Hotel. It was very nice indeed. Better than many hotels. I'm learning rapidly where to stay and where not to.
Quick change of subject - with hat tip to Downtown Guy (link to left) here is a list of top 50 dystopian movies, courtesy of something called Snarkerati http://snarkerati.com/movie-news/the-top-50-dystopian-movies-of-all-time/
Parting shot - JoJo (again link to left) commented that Throwing Stones would be a more appropriate Dead song than Eyes of the World to go with my posting on Georgia. Here it is, then, complete with gnomes...