Rushing south for various reasons, I decide that life is earnest and life is real and I just can't justify stopping off at some chic little inn in the Lake District but must bite the bullet and do what millions of ordinary decent Britons do, and break my journey at a motorway motel. The credit crunch is biting hard, and my days of being a hotel queen are over. (I sometimes have actual dreams about the days when I used to check into the Carlyle for a week, or the time I snuck into the Bel Air for three days and did not tell anyone where I was; I never felt so much like an International Woman of Mystery in my life.) But it is time to welcome myself to the real world, and it is good for me to stop behaving like a complete flake for once.
Thank heaven there is the wonderful Tebay, the only civilised service area on the M6, which has ducks and a farm shop and a nice hotel, only a little more expensive than a Travelodge, but has managed to decorate its rooms with actual style, as you can see below. (I am sorry the pictures are so small, I cannot seem to magnify them in any way. Stare closely at the screen for the full effect.)
The Westmoreland at Tebay has done a very clever thing. The sheets and towels are a little thin, as you would expect from a motorway stop, but someone has given more than ten minutes' thought to aesthetics. The rooms are painted in a nice Farrow and Ball taupish sagish colour, the curtains are a wonderful thick felt material, in dark claret, and the carpet is a very nice biscuit. When you get off the road after three hundred miles, your retinas are not assaulted by horror. Also, the bathrooms are very elegant indeed.
But, hideous shock, Tebay is FULL. I must plunge into the terrors of the Holiday Inn Express and the Travelodge. I call my mother. 'Can I really stay at the Days Inn in Charnock Richard?' I say. 'Yes,' she says, firmly. 'You astonish me,' I say. 'The dogs will like it,' she says, obscurely. Then she becomes rather excited. I must, apparently, take all my lovely travel rugs and my own pillows and scented candles and some room spray ('have you got lavender for the bed?' she says) and I can make the room heaven and feel smug that I have only paid £29. By the end of the conversation, we decide that it is a tremendous idea.
Then I look at the website:
Oh, I know it's not the worst bedroom in the world. But bear in mind if this is the picture they put up on the web, this is the best they have to offer. We all know that the actual room might not live up even to this. And there is something so demoralising about it. So I cast around. I find a Holiday Inn:
Again, it's not the ugliest thing in the world. But there is nothing in there that you would want to take home with you. You would not decorate your own bedroom like that. What is wrong with some nice claret curtains and a bit of biscuit?
In the meantime, call me old-fashioned, but I am very, very happy that I get to stay here: