Tanya Sweeney: I miss hotels. The bedside Bible and the insufferable toasting machine
There’s something about the no-man’s-land of a hotel room; you can shrug off life
’I miss a hotel swimming pool. I miss wandering around in a towelled dressing gown. I miss the dinky shampoo bottles.’
What is the next level up from “bone tired?” Is it “cosmic exhaustion”? Or “cellular fatigue”? Burnout was several towns ago. Running on fumes feels like a midway point between normality and now. I’ve never been this wrecked, is what I’m getting at.
It’s not just me. Some friends – people who, until 18 months ago, enjoyed varied, full and adventurous lives – text me from bed at midday, saying they’re far too tired to leave. I appreciate that this “tired of life” trope is becoming trite, but still: there’s a lot to be said for spending a year in mourning of a life you have spent decades building.
Anyway. Sleep and rest have become a sort of vice for all of us, and yet the blistering irony is, life has rarely been this sonorous or uneventful. Doing nothing should not be this exhausting. Could it be that the sheer monotony of lockdown life, with our usual coping mechanisms and comforts, has simply drained our life forces away?
I think I’ve figured it out. What I’d like more than anything is a hotel break. I don’t mean a tropical, sun-soaked resort getaway – the idea of navigating the airport is enough to provoke hives – but the sort of warm, comforting hospitality that only an Irish hotel can provide.
I miss the afternoon slump where you’re not sure whether to get stuck into the red wine simply because you can
“Do you HAVE to go abroad to check into a quarantine hotel?” a colleague tweeted recently. It was doubtless meant in jest, and I’ve no doubt that two weeks in a quarantine hotel isn’t exactly a cakewalk, but there’s a tiny kernel of truth there. All we want is a couple of days where someone else makes the bed and dinner comes on plates that aren’t yours.
As then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar made an address to the nation about lockdown, my partner and I listened to it in a taxi, on our way to Wineport Lodge in Athlone. My sister-in-law very generously took our daughter for the weekend, so this was our first break in a while where it was Just Us. If you’re ever in the market for a Just Us weekend – and rumour has it that it might happen again, one day, eventually – I could think of no better spot. The rooms are named after types of wine, so we trooped into Margaux, flopped on the bed in the only way that you can in a hotel, and exhaled as we took in the shimmering lake outside the window. We had no real idea at the time what the rest of the year would hold, so we supped in this moment of quietude, happy to have relatively few cares in the world and grateful to have time to do nothing (oh, LOLs).
Still, there is something particularly restorative about a typical Irish hotel stay (note I’m not using the word ‘staycation’, because to me that means taking a break, but sleeping in your own bed). I miss a hotel buffet breakfast with the heat of a thousand suns. Where else can you sit down to a feast of crumpets and Nutella, yoghurt, cheese, croissants, Coco Pops and full fry up (and possible seconds), and no-one even looks at you sideways? I miss the delicate balancing act between courteous and convivial that all Irish hotel staff seem to swear by.
We came home strengthened as a couple, revived and more than ready to go back onto life’s hamster wheel
I miss the afternoon slump where you’re not sure whether to get stuck into the red wine simply because you can, or do something a little more worthy like read. I miss the cool, crisp sheets that make you wonder why this sort of bedding can never, ever be found in the shops. I miss a hotel swimming pool. I miss wandering around in a towelled dressing gown. I miss the dinky shampoo bottles. I miss trouser presses. I miss the bedside Bible. I even miss that insufferable toasting machine, through which bread passes at a sloth-like pace. I miss the foreignness and the sense of adventure, however small and familiar.
Why does all of this stuff appeal? After all, if you really wanted to, you could faff about in a dressing gown and drink wine at midday at home. But there’s something about the no-man’s-land of a hotel room. You can shrug off life, get comfortable, and be whatever or whoever you care to be, even if just for a few days.
I’ve thought so often about that fateful weekend in Wineport Lodge, and how tipsy and lazy it all was. Things got a little bit heated during a game of Connect 4, certainly, but we came home strengthened as a couple, revived and more than ready to go back onto life’s hamster wheel.
I have no idea how the post-pandemic hotel is going to look. Certainly, the sector has been bloodied beyond anyone’s expectations. Hopefully the experience we know and love comes out the other side, unbowed. I dream of trouser presses in the meantime.