But where were the toilets?
Over four days, and with a strict emphasis on drinking, it is not difficult to imagine the number of visits required. And the hotel is labyrinthine. My launch is in ten minutes. But first, I need to find the toilet.
I have a spatial incapacity: most journeys are guessed at, in a kind of optimistic panic. I am unable to imagine one space connecting to another, and so am more or less permanently spatially baffled. And this is a hotel that, as it happens, I have been coming to for twenty years. I danced here with a debutante at a wedding. I have been drunk here a great many times. And I still can’t find the toilets.
There is someone ahead of me: we get chatting, and then someone else is suddenly lurching in front of us. He is standing at the top of a few steps, and he is tremendously drunk. ‘I’m supposed to be on a panel,’ he attempts to say, several times. ‘I’m supposed…’ Then he is falling, pinwheeling – big fellow, hefty – I grab at his tee-shirt and we stabilise him. Wandering, I find an art exhibition, on a floor the existence of which would have never have occurred to me, had I not got lost on the way to…
The art is wonderful. I flirt with a print, £60! But no, sanity prevails, thank God. I am walking faster and faster, I really could do with finding… I find myself back at Reception and start again. There are signs, but they don’t convince, somehow. They are faint, gold-coloured, they look evasive, hand-painted, untrustworthy. I prefer to trust to instinct. I have a recurring dream of a building that becomes monstrous, limitless, partially ruined. The dream journey becomes harrowing, calamitous. Sometimes I am leading a group, who are depending on me to get them out. (Good luck with that one, guys.) And every journey I make in real life, in this incomprehensible hotel, is a faint echo of the dream.
Then there’s the return journey. I wander for miles, hallway after hallway, thinking, was it this far? Surely it wasn’t this far. Then getting back to where I went wrong. Starting again. Relaxed now, but proceeding with a sense of fury, futility, defiance. Bugger it, I know it’s not this way, but I’m going this way anyway. Bugger it. The right passageway is found, the stairs, I curse them for sitting here the whole time, hidden, mocking me. Smug.
But I make it to my launch. Finally.
And after that, all I have to do is work out how to get out of the building…