Thursday 10 May 2012: The Infinite Hotel
The hotel Barney booked me into was perfect: clean, modern, comfortable. The window looked out the back, over a grey, closed-in area of low roofs and skylights, pooled with water from the recent rain; air-con fans and a large square aluminium chimney, presumably a vent for the kitchen. All quite familiar, almost hauntingly so. I spent the first years of my life with my (unmarried) mother in English hotels and guest houses (I have vivid memories of the one in Bristol, grand as any hotel, with red squirrels in the tall old pines). I find them comforting and discomforting in equal measure. Their anonymity is both soothing and slightly creepy. Because they have to accommodate bathrooms, the room never seems properly closed; there is always a lurking shadowy alcove (for the odd ones like me who have unquiet imaginations).
The In order to explain the paradoxical nature of infinity, mathematicians sometimes talk about The Infinite Hotel, with rooms for an infinite number of guests. When tour-leader turns up (with a group of infinite tourists), the desk clerk is momentarily worried, then he remembers: no problem. He simply asks everyone who is already booked in to move into the room two doors on, thereby leaving a room free.
Every hotel is The Infinite Hotel, because they are all essentially the same building. Even a cosy modest Limerick hotel possesses something of the maze-like grandness and eeriness of Stephen King's Overlook in the Rocky Mountains: the ubiquitous and faintly menacing firehoses, the padded silences, the multifarious hums and creaks and voices off. Despite all these things, I slept quite well and woke in time for a latish breakfast. I made good time heading back to Dublin. It was wet and misty. I listened to the radio (Newstalk), let some cars overtake me and followed some of the other not-quite-so-fast ones, and the trip passed is a speedy grey hiss.