From My Diary

It’s almost midsummer, and the weather is definitely settling into hotter weather.  The brightness, the intensity of the sun, gives energy and we all start rushing about.  I’ve been in my garage, pulling stuff out on to the driveway, and throwing things away, donating others, and repacking.  There is little urge to sit in front of a screen.  This morning I walked along the promenade by the sea in my shirt, with no coat.  It’s important to get away from the web.

I have a couple of folders on my desktop seeking attention.  The first is a folder on Homer.  I’ve been trying to get a feel for the text tradition.  It is remarkable how some obvious questions do not seem to be answered, despite the voluminous literature.  I’d like to know when the first quotation from Homer is recorded in some other writer.  A simple question; but I have yet to discover the answer.  Surely there are lists of testimonia?

The second is a folder on the Easter Bunny, started in April, it seems.  I think it can wait.

The third is a link to my Eutychius working directory, with the materials to revise my translation of that Arabic Christian author.  At the moment I do not feel drawn to it.

I did look at Bar Hebraeus, Book of the Dynasties.  There is an 18th century German translation, printed in the Fraktur typeface.  But if you go to Google Books and display text rather than the page, Google Chrome will automatically turn the result into quite passable English.  I don’t know that the world needs me to labour through this stuff.

I have a folder in my email with ideas for blog posts; and another for material connected to Mithras, for upload.  Neither appeals at the moment.

So I do nothing, and instead I fritter my time away.  But it is summer, so maybe that’s allowed.  I feel a bit stale, and it’s probably time for a holiday.

In fact I hope to go away for a week in a month or so, which should provide a much-needed break.  I’m also mulling over a short trip – perhaps a couple of days – that I would like to do by myself to look at a medieval site.

A link tells me about a city-tour of Istanbul in September.  That would be nice to do, although the prices are rather frightful, and I am not quite sure that my other half is fit enough to do it.  It is generally best to visit such exotic places with a tour, however.  You get much the best rooms, rather than the worst. This knowledge brings back a few memories for me, indeed.

My parents once visited Rome independently.  On arrival they were put into a terrible room at their pricey hotel.  My mother was reduced to tears.  The reason for this poor room was that a tour had co-opted all the best rooms.  But the tour departed the following morning.  Thankfully the management took pity on the old couple and moved them to a good room with a view of St Peters.  That brightened their mood greatly; and then they walked down into the ancient centre, and walked, and walked all the way from the Borghese Gardens to the Vatican.  Such was the charm of the city upon my generally frail mother, that she wore out my father in walking.  In the end they had an excellent time, and they remembered their visit to Rome all their lives.  They always intended to return, but sadly never did.  But they fell into this trap which awaits the independent traveller.

The same practice of preferring tour guests to everyone else also applies in other countries.  I stayed away from home a lot during my working life.  In one hotel in Cambridge, where I was staying for several months on  business, I witnessed the same phenomenon.  All the best rooms – the ones you could get some sleep in – were on the fifth floor.  Needless to say, I had arranged with the staff to stay in the same room each week upon that floor.  But if a tour party came in, I sometimes had to hustle a bit to get my room!  Tours are big money.  But I made sure that the staff were on my side.

There’s no point wishing that things was otherwise.  The hotel business must work like this.  After all, the hotel staff see the tour representative every week, and although the tour members may be strangers, they know that the tour rep has real spending power.  A solo traveller or couple arriving for a one-off couple of nights may be treated as they please.  This fact explains some of the worst hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.

I always found that it was advisable to make friends with the hotel reception staff.  I always used to go and chat to them a little, and make sure that I wasn’t just another face.  They are, after all, the people upon whom you will rely if anything goes wrong.  And sometimes it does go wrong.  I remember checking into a hotel once and discovering that my booking for that week had vanished.  And not just my booking: all the bookings for that week had miscarried, and so other people had been booked in!  But I had arrived early on the Monday, before anyone else – always a good idea -, and I was there every week, and the staff knew me.  With a wink they gave me my usual room, and they booted someone else, some unknown stranger who had been assigned my room and was yet to arrive.  A little later I came down to reception where there was a huge queue of tired and frustrated businessmen, all with the same problem.  I came back to the hotel a couple of hours later and the queue was still there.  But I, their friendly regular visitor, whom they saw every week, had got my room.

Likewise it’s worth staying in better hotels, especially in the Middle East.  Things go wrong, even in the best hotels.  But the staff are embarrassed, and they will try to fix things and help you out.  Just don’t shout, and keep smiling, and they will keep trying.  In lesser hotels your query will be met with a shrug and a look of “what do you expect in a dump like this?”

There is something to be said for a tour where you only stay in a hotel for a night or two, and are then off to some other point of interest.  Even if something goes wrong, you only must endure it for a night or two.

I suppose all this is the musings of a man who spent twenty years on the road from Monday to Friday, and learned how to manage.  Most hotels are awful.  Coming home can be the nicest part of the holiday!


2 thoughts on “From My Diary

  1. I disagree, the world does need Bar Hebraeus’s Book of the Dynasties in English! 🙂

Leave a Reply