Ian McMillan: The hotel where I nearly hit boiling point

They say wisdom comes with age and they also say you learn something new every day; well, I can confirm both of those things because I’m 58 years old and I feel a bit wiser now than I did before, because the other day I found out the hard way that in kettle-based matters it’s always best not to take things into your own hands but leave them to the experts.

So, what happened was that I was staying in a hotel for a night while I was working away, and I don’t know about you but the first thing I do when I get into a hotel room is put the kettle on and make a lovely cup of tea. There were several nice things about the room including a full-length mirror that I could pose in front of whilst pulling funny faces, and some nice shower gel that made me smell like a Yorkshire Rose but sadly there was no kettle. And I was gagging for a cuppa.

I searched the room, even though the room wasn’t very big, hoping against hope to find a kettle in a secret compartment but there was no sign of one in the wardrobe or the drawers or the bathroom or the bin. I rang reception and explained my dilemma. The kind lady was cheerful. “I’ll get somebody to bring you one directly,” she piped, and I was cheered by the word “directly”.

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Twenty minutes later I was still waiting, so I decided to go for a stroll; I called by the reception desk and told the kind lady that I’d pick the kettle up when I got back. “There’s no need; somebody’s going to bring you one directly,” she smiled. “Directly”; ah yes.

I went back to my room and waited. I heard footsteps down the corridor and opened the door in anticipation: it was a cleaner dragging a Hoover to the next room. I sloped back inside and pulled pouty, scowly faces in the full-length mirror. I really was getting desperate for a drink so I went next door and interrupted the cleaner as she emptied the waste bins into a vast black sack. “Can I borrow the kettle out of there and take it to my room?” I said and she agreed straight away. “Take it!” she said, laughing. What a cheerful hotel.

I filled the kettle and switched it on. It boiled melodically. There was a knock at the door. It was a thin lad with one huge earring. “I’ve brought your kettle,” he said, his voice squeaking like a gate. “It’s okay,” I said, trying to sound reassuring, “I’ve got one now.” He looked confused; “I was told to bring you a kettle directly,” he replied. Next door the cleaner was singing along to a radio; it was that old Beatles song She Loves You. “Okay, I’ll take it,” I said, closing the door.

I had no kettles before and now I had two; I felt like one of those blokes in the old maths problems in the textbook: “Say a man has two kettles. He gives one to a neighbour for half the price he paid for it…” The cleaner was singing Hey Jude. There was a knock at the door; it was an elderly man with a thick moustache. “I’ve brought you a kettle,” he said, the words making his facial hair ripple. I didn’t protest or try to explain: I just took the kettle. Directly.

From a lack of kettles to a surfeit of kettles. You live and learn.