I’m pretty sure I have stayed in the very room depicted, during conference season a number of years back. It was a second year running at Brighton, and I’d had a bright idea. The year before, I had spotted a number of top notch looking sea front hotels with signs in the window offering rooms at very low rates. So my plan was to turn up at Brighton and trundle my wheelie suitcase up and down the sea front and find a top-notch hotel at knock-down rates.
It didn’t work one bit. All the hotels still had the cheap room signs, but reception staff all looked at my sandals and trundly suitcase and sneered that whatever the sign said, the rate didn’t apply during conference season. They had rooms, but they were on nightly rates of well upwards of £100.
So I ended up in the Brighton Charter, which was much cheaper, but nasty. Very uncomfortable beds with dusty bedspreads on top of mouldy sheets. Holes in the very thin walls. Yes, a sea view, but no working telly, barely a lock on the door and shoddy plumbing. No kettle either. I see room coffee facilities as an absolute essential when away at conferences. It’s an outrage to have to pay retail prices to sustain one’s caffeine addiction.
Worst of all was what I heard at night. Loud music is one thing. Domestic violence in the corridors quite another. There was lots of slamming of doors and tearful jibes shouted through the walls. I’m not sure how serious the argument was, but some fairly serious accusations were shouted about violence, leaving me unsure of the ettiquette. Should I intervene and risk getting myself beaten up whilst also not achieving anything? Should I sit tight and let them sort out their own affairs? It carried on for three nights.
After that, I was fortunate enough to move out, because my then boss vacated his room in the Brighton Hilton two days early, giving me a vital key card (easy access to conference bar without grovelling to residents) and a few nights of luxury to wash away the squalor. The room probably had more floor space than my entire house, and had a private sea front balcony. A huge bath helped greatly with the final day hangover.
This year, however, I’m still in two minds about whether to go to conference. I have paid to go; and I have a costly room reservation in a nice hotel. I have much more space in the room than I need, as I was hoping to persuade P to come down too, but that is not to be. There’s even a spare bed. I can still cancel my reservation and not lose money; and I booked long enough in advance for the conference registration fee not really to matter to me.
It would certainly be nice to catch up with old friends, and make policy and generally do all of those conferenc-y things. But is it worth the hundreds of pounds it will inevitably cost?