Throughout Western society, and those parts of it exported to otherwise exotic locations, the decor, facilities and atmosphere of most hotels have converged on a vision of soulless uniformity. Whether it's the mass-produced ersatz 'art', the spirit-crushing piped music, the pointless folding of the toilet paper into a peak, or the joyless smiles of the long-suffering desk staff, within minutes of entering any such hotel the guest is deprived of all social cues and is in a world essentially devoid of culture. Fortunately for those travelling in Britain, a creative force exists which cannot be stamped out by the mindless corporate suits who would paint the whole world a uniform shade of grey.
Happily, the typical British hotel has the wholly remarkable capacity to surprise a guest. Picture yourself as the hollow shell of a once fully-functional human being, the tragic product of a decade of the hotel lifestyle. Imagine the reawakening of your long-dormant soul, as you get into the shower, expecting another predictably mundane ablutionary ritual, only to be shocked out of your rut by ice-cold water, seemingly treated with some hi-tech process enabling water to achieve temperatures tens of degrees below zero and yet remain a liquid. Contemplate the unparalleled joy brought by experiencing something different after what feels like an eternity of mindless consistency.
But the fun doesn't stop there - almost as soon as you adjust the controls to achieve a more tolerable setting, the temperature will leap wildly into realms of the superheated, then drop and pause briefly at a sensible level in order to lull you into a false sense of security before settling back into playful chaos. After a few such experiences you will realise that the labels 'Hot' and 'Cold' are just there to provide the illusion of control; your only option is to sit back (or, more likely, stand up, depending on the design of the shower cubicle) and enjoy.
Coughing Bath Taps
These are the special taps, often encrusted with grey limescale, that stay silent when you first turn them on, and then cough water (sometimes a delightful brown colour) of varying temperature into the bath. The best ones stay quiet for ages, until you approach them, and start coughing just as you go to adjust them, and stop as you draw away. A supreme example would have some low hanging shelf, cupboard, or towel rail placed precisely so that when you jump back startled at the coughing, your head hits the corner of the impediment.
Plumbing as Art
As you ride this calorific roller coaster, spare a thought for the ingenious souls who make it possible. Such diversity does not happen in a shower by accident, and can only be the product of a lifelong devotion to the art. It seems as though teams of dedicated plumbers must have spent days devising serpentine routes for the pipes. The stunning surges and plummets in temperature feel like they could only have been achieved by running the pipes outside, through the furnaces, across the road, round the local power station's cooling towers, and through the cryogenic suspension unit1. Be grateful, for if they had shirked their responsibilities and merely routed the pipes directly from the relevant water tank straight to your room, you would have been deprived of this rich and fascinating showering experience.
While some might say that working plumbing was one of the few positive artefacts of the modern hotel, in truth any attempt to overcome the lack of diversity must surely be celebrated. In fact many of the more forward-thinking hotels have started experimenting with further variations to brighten the traveller's day. Guests can look forward to guessing the colour of water that will emerge from the shower, or enjoy vigorous percussion solos from the plumbing when the taps are opened, or can play the 'safe cracker' game where only the precise combination of left and right turns on the taps will cause a steady flow of water to come out.