Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 12, 2009

It’s Thursday so it must be Newcastle

Newcastle in the snow.  Again snow.   Sigh…   And I have travelled up by car.  Via Leeds.   Because Wednesday it was Leeds.  Tomorrow is Newcastle too and then all the way down the A1 again, to Norfolk.  About four and a half  hours of driving if all goes well and I don’t stop.  However, I think it’s probably better to have a break once in a while, don’t you think?  So, it’s more likely to take me up to six hours.  The forecast is for a dry day so by the time I’ve finished the job (around 4?) it should be a clear run.  I hope. 

On Monday it was London and on the way back the train was very very full with people standing up in the aisles – I didn’t, I got myself a first class ticket.  I don’t like standing.  Especially not when I’m tired becasue I’ve been standing half the day, asking people difficult questions and then trying to coach them into giving their views.  Views on new education programmes and qualifications.  There’s also a researcher trying to write it (read: type it) all up.  There are microphones across the room.  It’s all very tiring.  So I refused to stand  on the way back home.  People look at you when you come out of first class, as if you’re an alien, not quite part of them.  They have been standing all the way, or sitting uncomfortably squashed next to a great big man with a laptop, or a woman with three bags and a briefcase, or…  etc.  Mind, even the first class compartment was full, every seat taken.  Only, the seats are roomier, you can spread out a bit.  There’s no one breathing in your face.  So that was Monday.   I had a big glass of wine when I got home and went to bed, at 9.30.

And then on Tuesday I was going to take the train to Leeds, but I could not get to the station, could not get into Peterborough via that one road from King’s Lynn, past Wisbech and through the Fens.  When all of a sudden everything came to a halt, and the road was all blocked, I realised I did not have my sat nav so I could not work out another route into Peterborough and to the station.  I was definitely going to miss the train that I wanted to catch.  I made a u-turn, drove back home (30 miles), got my sat nav and kept driving, all the way to Leeds.  That’s why I ended up in Leeds by car.  And then on Wednesday night I had to go to Newcastle and so I drove.  In the dark.  I was tired.  My eyes hurt.  I got to the hotel.  A posh hotel, the Hilton in Gateshead.  But the staff was very unfriendly: they insisted to see my ‘identification’ and I was offended.  I thought they did not trust my name, that perhaps they  thought  I was a terrorist as I have a foreign name.  After all, it is Dutch, my name that is.  But oh no, that’s not was the girl meant.  She insisted that I might be taking advantage of their ‘cheap government rate’ and I had to prove that I was working for or with the organisation that had booked me in.   I don’t work for the organisation that had  booked me in – I was doing some consultancy for them.  Dilemma.  Problem.  Ah, but then I remembered that e-mail that I had printed (why had I printed it off?) and I searched for it in my bag and found it.  She was happy with that, it showed that I had a reservation number.   It seems that you cannot get in (at a cheap rate, that is) unless you have a registration number.  Now you know, just in case you want to stay at the Hilton Gateshead.  There are nasty people out there who take advantage of government priority rates for expensive hotels.  Now I know.

My room is very pleasant, at least that’s the upbeat thing about expensive hotels that are not easy to get into.  Where you have to show that you are a bona fide person.  They did not want to see my driver’s license although I offered them that.  Thing is, I’m not even paying for this room so they really should be demanding a ‘proof’ from the organisation that booked me in, shouldn’t they?   Or am I missing something?

I got up early, had a work out in the gym and felt better after this already very long week.  When with a colleague we ventured out for a quick stroll into Newcastle this morning, it started to snow.  And snow again.  It was wet and miserable so we went back.  I wanted to do some work in my room but it was not made up yet.  That was a good excuse for sitting in the lounge and having a nice capuchinno – I felt I deserved one.  Worked away on the laptop, chatted with my colleague, whose room had not been made yet either.  An hour later it still was not made.  We asked the receptionist, it was a he.  But he was not friendly either.  He thought we were a nuisance.  I concluded that the staff in this hotel think that their customers are a nuisance and that we should be really grateful for being allowed to stay in such a  nice and new hotel.  We should not bother them.  They own this nice and gleaming place, it’s there for them, not for us.   I’d made a mistake thinking that staff in nice posh hotels are even nicer than the ones in not so posh hotels.  But I am wrong.  I am here to be as humble as possible, show my gratitude for being allowed in.  I suppose.  My room is still nice though, especially now that the bed’s been made again and the bathroom has been tidied. 

Did I do any reading?  I’d almost forgotten why I started this blog.  Yes. I did read.  Last night I finished Kate Atkinson’s When will there be good news.  I marvel at her gusto, her story telling ability, how she manages to keep so many different balls in the air.  When finishing the book I smiled and wanted to applaude the wonderful way in which she tells and spins a story.  A story that works, for me at least.  Definitely, a great book for trains and hotel rooms.  You count yourself lucky being in a hotel room, however unfriendly the staff are!  At least you’re safe.  At least I hope I am.  Until tomorrow, that is, when I will have to drive back.  However, I can look forward to being in my own home and sleep in my own bed.  For a whole weekend.  Bliss.



  1. Hotels are not what they used to be. Anyway, glad you settled in okay at the end which is good news. And glad you enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s book. It would be quite exciting to read on a train! Perhaps terrifying but exciting! Have a good day, or is it evening?

  2. Wow. You’ve gotten around and about the countryside, and with such patience! Glad the hotel was well appointed though the staff was not. They are foolish to fall down on customer service/relationships. Bravo to you on knowing when to take a break and have a cappucino! your schedule sounds particularly stringent but honestly? I enjoyed hearing all about it, as always! Hope the weekend is wonderfully warm and comfy!

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