That woman on reception is very nice, but she’s difficult to convince. Vicky, I think her name is. Nice name. I called her Victoria, once, but she told me to call her Vicky. She should be a bank manager or something, because she never believes a word anybody says. I keep telling her that there are things wrong with my room. The view is not what I was promised in the brochure. There’s no telephone. I have to go into the lobby to use the phone. The toilet is broken. I don’t know how many times I have told them about that toilet.
Recently, I’ve been going to see her every day. Sometimes, she even comes to see me. “Hello, Charlie,” she says. “How are you today? Still moaning about something?” I thought it was a bit rude at first. I expected her to call me by my last name, Mr Simpson. She must be thirty years younger than I am. She’s a big girl. You would not want to meet her and her mates on a dark night. She always wears trousers. I suppose it’s the fashion nowadays. Women in trousers. It doesn’t seem right to me, somehow. It’s not traditional.
Anyway, as I said, recently I have been seeing her just about every day. I sometimes pop and see her when I’m on my way to get my dinner. I don’t cook much, nowadays. It’s just as easy to eat in the restaurant, I find. I like to keep myself on her list of people to attend to. She seems very well organised, but I don’t want her to get the idea that she can fob me off. Sometimes I can tell that she’s just humouring me, but I won’t stand to be ignored. “When are you going to get my toilet fixed?” I keep asking her. “When am I going to get a phone in my room?” “When we upgrade you to five star, Charlie,” she sometimes says. It’s a cheek, that is. It’s a damned cheek because she knows as well as I do that there aren’t any five star facilities in this place. You’d have to go to the other end of town to find even four star. I don’t know if this place has got any awards, but it would surprise me if it has.
The only thing that’s less reliable than the facilities in this place are the other guests. Some of them are a rough lot. It makes you wonder how they get the money to afford the room. Maybe some of them are on benefits: they certainly look it. That’s how you can tell that a hotel has gone to the dogs: when they start letting bed and breakfast dossers stay there, or asylum seekers. I wouldn’t waste good taxpayer’s money on asylum seekers. I’d send the bleeders all back home. Covered in tattoos, some of them. All the way up both arms, neck, chest – face, even, sometimes – tattoos on their bloody face – I’m not kidding. Would you give a job to some-one who had tattoos on his face? No, me neither. Unemployable, some of them. I’m retired. I worked hard for 44 years, I did. The only compensation I get for being with such a bunch of yobboes is that the local library is always quiet. I like the library. I read a lot of books.
This morning, when I was on my way back from chapel, I sent to see Vicky again, and I said to her, “You give me one good reason – just one – why I shouldn’t walk straight out of this place and book into the Hilton?” I looked her straight in the eye. I know she’s taller than me, but I looked her straight in the eye. She looked back at me, and do you know what she said? She said, “Because you’ve got another nine years of your sentence left to serve, Simmo.”