bookmark_borderHotel Life

Hotels are strange places. Particular the big chains that always give me pause when I am woken from my slumber by an early alarm, those initial few seconds it takes to remember where I am in the world when confronted by yet another bland room with the exact same layout as the other bland rooms I’ve stayed in before.

To be fair, most of the time I only every stay in a hotel for a few nights so as long as it’s clean, has a decent bed and a shower, I don’t need much more. It is but a roof over my head, a base to explore the world from, so my requirements of a hotel room aren’t the most extravagant. As long as it’s good enough it’s good enough for me, as I’m sure someone else once said.

It’s no coincidence that I am writing this very post whilst sitting on a not too uncomfortable chair, in front of an almost usefully sized desk in a Premier Inn which, as expected, is as perfectly innocuous as any other. It’s quite a skill to have the interior design of such places broken down into a perfectly repeatable format that is used so often I’m sure most of you can picture the room I’m in without any more description.

This is not to putdown this, or any other, budget level hotel. They have a valuable place in the world and part of that is down to their insipid offerings. The fact that each Premier Inn room is essentially the same, that every Tune hotel has the same offerings (no I don’t need a window or more than one towel thanks), and all come with such similar colour schemes that there becomes a tranquility and comfort in their familiarity. When you’ve spent a day exploring the world, or been working in a new location, it’s nice to have a calm space that doesn’t challenge or overload your brain. Long live mediocrity.

I guess that’s why, when you do stay at a hotel that has put some thought into the little details or offers decorative touches that stand out, those are the ones that leave an impression. It can be the simplest of things – USB charging points next to both sides of the bed for example – that stand out, and many times it’s a tiny detail that in hindsight makes you wonder why EVERY hotel doesn’t have such a thing.

As mentioned staying at a hotel with USB points, as well as standard plugs, on both sides of the bed, seems like such a trifling matter on its own, but if you include a remote control for the air conditioning, a choice of pillows in the cupboard and not one but three different, large, surfaces to accumulate all the junk we end up with us when we travel, and what could’ve been a basic hotel room quickly goes up in your expectation. Add in some unique design touches, maybe eye catching wallpaper, or a luxurious armchair (to throw your clothes on) and suddenly it all feels so much more luxurious.

The flipside of this though is that such rooms aren’t familiar. The minute I step into the room of a more upmarket hotel, one that has a bigger budget to equip and decorate the room I’m always aware of the money I’ve spent, and try to take in the details, make sure I use all the facilities. I act like I’m staying in a hotel, I’m aware I’m staying in a hotel and I always feel a little out of place. As much as I like my creature comforts, I’m a man of simple tastes for the most part, happy to make do with the basics as long as those basics are good enough.

A posh hotel room is too far from what we have at home, it doesn’t feel familiar, it doesn’t feel safely unchallenging, it reminds me that I am not at home, that I am far from my loved ones.

So you can keep your high thread count linens, and complimentary robes and slippers, give me something bland and familiar.

Wow, I’m not sure I could be any more middle-aged than this.

I am Premier Inn.

bookmark_borderEverything changes

We human beings are a strange and complicated lot in many ways, none more so than when something alters in our worldview. I know that change is viewed by a lot of people as a bad thing yet it seems that, when it is thrust upon us, we adapt to it far more easily than we have anticipated.

I guess fear of the unknown is likely the biggest factor and the higher your natural anxiety levels are the more that can become the focus and start to dominate our thoughts as the upcoming change looms before us. On the other hand change can be seen as an opportunity, something to embrace and be excited about, even if it can be daunting. Like I said, us humans are a complex bunch.

Having recently started a new job for the first time in – checks notes – over 7 years, and I’ll be working in a new location too. It’s what is now being referred to as a hybrid role, with a minimum of 2 days a week in the office so whilst it’s not every single day, it is the first office I’ve stepped into in over 4 years. Quite a change from working at home, and it took me a couple of days to realise quite why I was SO exhausted after only a few days back in an office environment.

When COVID struck, my previous employer sent us all to work from home for a while and there I stayed, with all the perks it entails for almost four years; dress how you want, listen to music if you want, better coffee, ability to do quick chores or help out with your new born son etc. I was more than happy and I don’t really think my work suffered because of it; interactions with my colleagues were limited to online meetings, chats, and the (very) occasional phone call. It made some things more challenging but not impossible.

Fast forward to today and here I am, back in a large open plan office, with all the associated background noise and people (actual people!) that I need to chat with and interact with all day long. From the first friendly ‘morning’, the random chats about latest news topics, and work related queries as people wander up to my desk (or I to theirs), it’s all a lot more people-ing than I’ve done for a long time. And my goodness it’s tiring!

It’s not a complaint, far from it, but it wasn’t something I’d accounted for when I started this new job, the emotional energy required to just talk to numerous different people for any length of time took more out of me than I’d realised. I know it’ll change as I get to know people better and get used to all this talking and interacting again, but heck it’s way harder than I remember it being in the past. That said, with hybrid roles becoming more and more prevalent I’m not anticipating being in an office 5 days a week ever again.

What’s weird is to think about how I used to behave in an office environment, my work persona isn’t all that different from my day to day attitudes so, for those who know me well, you can imagine that I’m just as chatty and cheeky with my work colleagues as I am with my friends. However the first few days in this new role, even taking into account the amount of information I’m ingesting as I try to get up to speed, felt very different, and very draining.

I’m into my third week now and it’s already getting easier so I guess I’m just out of practice?

It’s a big change at home as well, all of a sudden I’m not there for entire days. I’ve got about 10 mins from when I get Jack up at 7am before I need to leave to get the train (if I’m cycling in I’m already gone by the time he gets up), and then I don’t get home until 6pm which is an hour before he goes to bed. His bedtime routine is the same at least, bath with Mummy, then Daddy puts him down to sleep but we no longer get to spend an hour or so hanging out each morning, I don’t see him at either lunch or dinner on the days I’m in the office.

It’s a change for Becca too, nap time was something I helped with during the day but I can’t if I’m not there. Dinner time is the same and whilst Jack is much more independent these day, he’s an inquisitive and active little boy so you still need to have eyes in the back of our head!

And for me I’ve found some old habits returning; I’m getting lost in the overwhelming amount of information I’m trying to absorb, and with all the emotional energy I’m running through when I’m in the office I’ve not quite got the balance right. But I will. I’m keen to do well in this new job – it’s not a contract so the whole career thing is back to being part of my thinking – but the big learning from the COVID years and then the arrival of my precious boy is to keep a good work/life balance. I’ve struggled with this in the past, but it’s clearer to me now, clearer than ever, that having a happy home is all that really matters.

That means making sure Jack is happy and healthy, making sure Becca is happy and healthy, and making sure I’m happy and healthy (don’t worry the dogs are fine too!). As ever it’s about finding the balance, taking a few moments for myself now and then to make sure I’m not losing myself in ‘work mode’ or ‘Dad mode’, making sure Becca and I have time as a couple (we are super excited for brunch together next week), and of course making sure that the most important person in the house is catered for as best we can manage.

We worry sometimes that we could be better, do better, do more, for Jack but I guess that makes us good parents, we worry about that stuff and do our best to keep his mind stimulated and his body moving. I think it’s going pretty well, the last few weeks he’s started to string words and sounds together, so soon there will be one more voice for me to deal with and I cannot wait.