Thursday, 17 November 2011
I was out and about on a remarkably mild (people in shirt sleeves) and sunny day in St Andrew's yesterday, including a visit to the St Mary's college which must be one of the most beautiful - if not the most - ancient (16th cent) quads in the world. There is a thorn growing there which was planted by Mary, Queen of Scots. But it is about another sort of vegetation that I wish to write. To set the scene: last year I stayed for one night at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, famous for its connection with the TV Inspector Morse series. At dinner and the following morning, I noticed a very strong smell of stale cabbage in the dining room and entrance hall. On a hunch, I looked 'stale cabbage smell' up on Google and discovered that it is a gas given off by rotting vegetation, typically from faulty drains. Well, that smell also pervades this hotel, of similar vintage to the Randolph (the hotel, not the vegetation, or maybe both). I mentioned this coincidence to the staff on duty in reception, who looked at me as though I needed my head examining but later when I went up to my room on the third floor two more staff were there. They confirmed the smell was detectable in the corridor and in the room, and the senior of the two in smart blue suit said that DynoRod were at that moment working in the basement. The hotel is horribly overheated especially at night. Despite having my windows wide open, I tossed and turned - and it didn't help that THAT SMELL was drifting in and out too. A message from a neighbour in Moffat bears the bad news that one of the town's tourist venues, a nice garden centre-cum-cafe and fishing ponds has gone into receivership. This news, along with the drains put me in apocalyptic mood, perceiving the stench as somehow a metaphor for something wrong deep down in the underpinnings of our settled society. I hope I am proved wrong.