Couple About World: Duvets? Or sheets and blankets?

Jason Nissé knows exactly what he likes to find on the bed when he stays in a hotel. The only trouble is that his wife, Emma Bagnall, takes a different view



I don't sleep well in hotels. City hotels are often too noisy and too near the traffic and someone in the next room always seems to have his TV on too loud. Country hotels are too quiet. Having lived in London for the last two decades, I need more than the sound of a badger tiptoeing through the undergrowth to reassure me.

But two things really feed my insomnia in hotel rooms - the heat and the blankets. Hotels always turn up the heating, and however much you twiddle the thermostat you can't get it to a comfortable level. And then there is the small matter of why, in 2005, so many hotels persist in giving you sheets and blankets to sleep under.

Being trendy, middle-class, early adopters, my family moved to "continental quilts" in the mid-1970s. It was a liberating moment for me, equalled only by my discovery of fitted sheets in my mid-twenties. No more was I forced to fiddle with a thick woolly blanket and a greasy sheet when my mum told me to "make the bed". Instead, I just threw this enhanced bedspread, with its jaunty cover, over my bed, happy in the knowledge that this was just what groovy Scandinavians would do after a night of unbridled passion followed by a bowl of muesli.

I never looked back. Nor it seems has anyone else. I have stayed in many people's houses since then and I cannot remember sleeping under anything but a duvet.

But not in hotels. Why is this? Many hotels have smoking or non-smoking rooms. They offer you a choice of pillows. You can even specify different mattresses in some. Yet almost all of them give you no choice in what you sleep under. It is sheets and blankets, or nothing.

While duvets tend to adapt to your body temperature, blankets seal in the heat. So the only alternative to sweating like a spaniel is to get rid of a blanket or two (there is always more than one). This involves getting out of bed, pulling off the covers and then trying to get comfortable again. I find the only way to deal with this is to pull all the blankets and sheets free before I get in so I can easily chuck one away.

But why should I? Come on, hotels. Move to duvets. Or at least give duvet lovers such as me the choice.


Sheets and blankets

Hotels are a bit like LP Hartley's definition of the past: they're often in a foreign country where they do things differently. Being the mother of two small boys, I find hotels are a huge treat. The differences are part of that. Uncluttered

en-suite bathroom? Check. Perfectly hung drapes which block out every chink of light? Check. Wonderfully efficient radiators? Check. And immaculately laundered sheets and blankets with extra blankets in the wardrobe? Absolutely.

Duvets are so work-a-day. Functional and dull. Matter-of-fact. They are not the stuff of romantic get-away-from-it-all weekends. Duvets are for huddling in on cold mornings, before one is bombarded by children. Sheets and blankets speak of languor; the smell of coffee and purr of a Vespa on the ancient street below. Can you imagine rose petals strewn on a duvet? Exactly.

I am always either boiling or freezing under a duvet; you either shrug it off or burrow under. With blankets, you can always add another or take them away. Is anything nicer on a warm summer night than sleeping under just a cool linen sheet?

True, duvets are practical. It is easy to tidy them on a busy morning, and motherhood has taught me that duvet covers and fitted sheets do not need to be ironed. Were I to have the kind of lifestyle which incorporated a housekeeper and a 'tween maid, I would have linen sheets, welsh wool blankets and satiny, padded counterpanes. I would also be living circa 1935, so I accept it is not to be. Staying in hotels, however, removes such a reality clause. I'm not doing the laundry or making the bed so I can live how I like.

For me, hotel living is as much about the things I don't have to do as about the things I do. So there is food I do not have to purchase and cook, dishes I do not have to wash, bed linen I do not have to launder, and beds I do not have to make. That I am in a cosy hotel room climbing into immaculate, tightly tucked linen means that I'm not going to be woken by pooey nappies at dawn, and for that I am truly thankful.


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