End of story

Waking up and looking about me on Tuesday morning, I found my- self in an expensive-looking hotel room. Pleasant though the room was, I hadn't the slightest recollection of how I got there, which was slightly worrying. The night before I had gone to a pub, a champagne reception, a restaurant, a blues club, and an unlicensed social club run by Rastafarians. After that who knows?

I was lying on top of the bed in my suit and tie. Although it was daylight, I had no idea of the time. I looked at my watch, but it was no longer on my wrist. I lay there for a while, existing in time and space, but without proper knowledge of my co-ordinates. But when I got up and switched on the telly, I was immediately back on familiar ground. The newscaster was speaking soberly about the forthcoming Budget, and the clock in the corner of the screen told me it was 8.11am.

Looking at my face in the mirror, however, I saw that I was much older and more dissolute-looking than I would have thought possible. To cheer myself up, I decided to go downstairs, buy the Independent, then go back to bed again.

Leaving my room, I discovered that the hotel was substantial. Only the curvature of the earth prevented one from seeing further down the corridor. By the time I reached the lifts, I felt far from well.

The gift-shop downstairs had run out of the Independent, so I tottered outside and up the street to look for a newsagent. When I found one, I hadn't enough cash on me to pay for the newspaper. The newsagent was happy to put my Independent aside while I went to the nearby cash-point. While he was directing me there, I was overcome with nausea and had to run out of his shop and vomit into the gutter. Shaky, but feeling marginally better, I returned to his shop, and the newsagent continued his grave and long-winded instructions as if I'd never been away.

Even with a fully functioning brain, London W2 has never been one of my strong points. Unable to remember even whether he'd said to turn left or right outside his shop, I thanked the newsagent, walked out of his shop and hailed a cab. The cabbie drove me to the cash machine, which was about a hundred yards away, and then back to my hotel, which turned out to be only a matter of a few hundred yards away.

In the lobby I joined a small Japanese queue for the lift. We crammed in, and on the way up I stared at myself in the mirror. My eyeballs were glassy and bloodshot, and there was some sick on my lapel. At the first floor the lift stopped and the doors opened. A smartly dressed, middle- aged American lady was standing there. Because I was nearest, and the only European in the lift, she said to me: "Are you going up or down?" I was so hung-over I couldn't remember, and had to turn to the others for help, by which time the doors had closed and we were off again. At the top floor I stepped out of the lift. In all directions corridors radiated outwards towards infinity. In terms of sheer scale, it was like being on the top floor of the Pentagon. Which way to go? What was my room number? While I stood there deliberating, an ominous deliquescence occurred in my lower bowel.

I took out the smart card that served as a room key, hoping it might hold a clue. There was a ten-digit number on it. After some reflection I concluded, sensibly, that this was a security telephone number and not my room number.

There was nothing for it but to return to the lobby and inquire about my room number at reception. There was a queue and nothing to lean against en route, but I made it, and a busy receptionist tapped out my name on her keyboard and peered at the screen.

She lowered her eyebrows. She tapped again on her keyboard and shook her head. The Regency, she said, had no record of my existence.

Until we managed to work out between us that I was actually staying up the road in the International, this was very puzzling to the both of us.

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