Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 1 November 2008

A rude awakening

The help-yourself breakfast buffet was a single, waxed carton of orange juice (made from concentrate), and a stack of small upturned glasses. I filled one of these, tipped it down my throat, poured another and bore it to a table set for one beside the swing service door leading to the kitchen. A grubby laminated menu on the tea-stained tablecloth said that the Continental breakfast was tea or coffee with brown or white toast. Dotted about at the other tables were what appeared to be foreign tourists: a solitary meditative backpacker, two not quite awake couples, a fitfully vivacious table of four Spaniards. The unspoken shame of having to start the day in such shabby, penny-pinching surroundings was palpable.

On the far side of the room, directly opposite my table, was a large mirror. I could see myself from the waist up, neatly framed within it, my elbows on the table. In spite of a smart, plain-white shirt, my appearance was surprisingly dissolute, lending credence to a growing suspicion that I was far from sober. The eyes, smaller than usual, gleamed insolently back at me. The service door swung violently open, interrupting my view and wafting a gust of warm kitchen air over me. Then it swung back once more, and there I was again, staring menacingly back at myself, a few stray strands of my squashed barnet waving in the breeze.

When I’d woken up, I was lying flat on my back in a narrow single bed in a hotel room I didn’t recognise. The room was like a cupboard. It was so narrow I could have spanned it with outstretched arms. And my legs were wet. The bottom half of the bed was sodden. Further investigation told me that, although the sheets were soaked, the duvet and the suit trousers I’d slept in were perfectly dry.

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