I have always been puzzled at why humans seemingly have an obsession with sitting in the most inconvenient of places when one is trying to work, especially when there are plenty of other more suitable places available. It can be anywhere – a quiet café, a library with thousands of study tables, or a deserted hotel lounge bar on a Sunday.
I recently took advantage of some downtime at the nearby ExCeL exhibition centre and headed for the bar at the Novotel hotel which I hoped would be free of exhibition goers. I was pleased to find that it was completely deserted, offering a perfect writing environment with none of the usual distractions. I ordered my food at the bar and settled onto a sofa next to the window with its panoramic views over the Royal Victoria Dock.
As I was about to start writing, I heard a commotion from the nearby reception area. Soon enough, a group of middle-aged people appeared at the bar, dressed as though they were on their way to an international golf tournament in the customary vibrant sporting attire.
After recalling that no sport events had been scheduled at ExCeL, I realised that they were, in fact, a group of American tourists. As they looked around for somewhere to sit, completely spoilt for choice, I noticed to my horror that they had targeted the area where I was sitting, with its inviting (and empty!) sofa and armchairs. I hoped they might take a detour at the last moment. But no. Of all the sofas that were in the bar, they had to sit opposite mine – apparently because it was a “cool position” with a “rad view of the lake”.
Any writing aspirations I had for the afternoon totally dispersed as I was now completely surrounded by this multi-coloured group. The American sitting next to me in a purple astronaut outfit asked how I was doing. I lied and said that I was doing very well thank you. He then saw the laptop and asked me what it was for. I lied again and said that I was writing a Hollywood blockbuster. This caused a whole raft of excitable reactions from the astronaut’s friends, and he asked me if I’d ever heard of a writer called William Shakespeare.
To return a certain degree of courtesy, I asked the Americans where their golf tournament was being held. They said they had come to England on a “culture vacation” where they planned to visit William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford, and did I know where they could catch the Jubilee Line.
I debated whether to inform them that they were 120 miles off course and the Stratford they were looking for was on the banks of the Avon in Warwickshire and not in East London. But I thought it would be more productive for them (and amusing for me) to discover the wonders of the Olympic Park building site instead.
I didn’t feel guilty. For all I know they could be coming to the London Olympics in 2012 – so I’ll have done them a favour by giving them directions four years earlier.