Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Through half a glass, lightly

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair where I sit:
There isn't any other stair quite like it.
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top:
So this is the stair where I always stop.
©AA Milne

Through half a glass, the Diplomat
Today I left the world of Germans with their maps.

I'd been staying at the Hotel Rex in Stockholm, which I have no hesitation in recommending. But when I booked it, four nights was all that were available. And so I "expedia-ed on". And found...

The Hotel Diplomat.

The Hotel Rex is low cost, functional and tasteful. Most of the clientele appeared to be non-English-speaking German nationals, complete with guidebooks, maps and a blond child in tow. Serious travelers, they were polite, if distant and self-absorbed. One knew where one stood. Feet firmly on the ground. No waiting around for Godot. No looking for the meaning of life. Philosophy by numbers. It was as if the world of Igmar and his enigmatic dance of death did not exist. We are all Berliners, n'est ce pas?

Not so fast ... I've only been at the Diplomat a few hours but already I sense that I will after all, find the strange world of Igmar Bergman and the black and white Swedish show.

For starters, after only ten minutes I discovered my true inner being. I'd never realised it before. I was, I am ... a perfect mix of New York and Australian.

It happened like this.

Lift Entrance, Hotel Diplomat
I arrived at the hotel Diplomat and was confronted in the lobby, with an old fashioned elevator - one like in the movies, where you have to manually open the door, and then manually open an inner door and then crank it up, or down or wherever you wish to go.

So I pushed the button and stood for some long minutes, staring at the elevator entrance, noting the sign that clearly stated that Reception was "one flight above".

Nothing. Nix. Nyet. I waited. I looked behind me, shrugging, at a late-middle-aged couple seated on a sofa, with suitcases, clearly ready to depart. They stared straight ahead. Expressionless.

Minutes flew by. I realised nothing was happening and so tentatively pushed the outer door sideways. It opened. It had been waiting for me all that time.

I turned to the refined-looking couple behind me. "Thanks for letting me know," I snapped.

And in that split second I wondered. Was I New Yorker? Or Australian. Both I thought. And how.

The female half of the couple on the sofa spoke. She was English. Oblivious in their Englishness, the refined couple did not appear (as would Americans) embarrassed or (as would Australians) belligerent /defensive, but unhurried and confident. After all, Britannia once ruled the world! Lifts or no lifts. "Oh," she enunciated, "it happened to us didn't it George you just open it and go up. But there's no reception there either. It is behind you. We'd label it correctly, in England, of course!"

As I thanked her, I noticed a slight wince as she detected the colonial accent.

And off I trotted to Reception with a question or six. But I had to wait.

Straight out of Highsmith's "Ripley", he was. A dapper young Englishman explaining why his credit card had been declined. "Drat! Let me call my bank," he was saying (demanding), grabbing the phone before the reception person could respond. "Bloody hell, Ashley! D'you mind raising my limit a thou or two. Bloody cards and foreigners. Yes say hello to Samantha. Dratted nuisance eh what?"

Was this guy for real? Unfortunately yes.

She bought it. "Thank you sir, just sign here." Which he did. Unhesitatingly....

And so now I have settled in. Almost. I just tried to get to the spa and sauna. Apparently it's on a mezzanine (or as the brochure states, halfway between floors one and two).

So after I unpacked I got into the old rattler of a lift, punched the button that said the halfway thing, eh what and strike me dead if it didn't stop exactly halfway between floors 1 and 2. I could see through the ornamental door - the floor was at approximately chest height.

"What's a chap meant to do I?" mused. Can't bloody complain. It said halfway up and halfway down.

Time for half a glass. Of something ...

O for those German tourists and their maps ...

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