Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

This hotel is brand new. One half is a university students' hostel, the other an apartment hotel. Car parking is ample and free of charge. The students we saw coming and going from the lobby were easily our social superiors. The check-in guy was clean and polite, and without being asked supplied us with a free map of the town centre and marked our position with a biro cross. Although a functionary, this man was also our social superior. 'Are you here for business or pleasure, madam?' he asked my companion. She and I hadn't actually met until about half an hour earlier and our intention was to quickly get to know one another as soon as the door of the room had closed behind us, maybe go out for something to eat later, then come back and carry on getting to know each other. 'Business, babe,' she laughed.

The whole check-in experience was fast, easy and smooth. Though situated right next to the railway station, the apartments were more than adequately insulated against noise from outside and from each other. Ours was spotlessly clean and the kitchen area well equipped. Sachets of tea and coffee were provided, also shortbread biscuits, over which we had our first small disagreement. I picked up the remote and flicked on the adequate-sized telly. The BBC News Channel with subtitles for the hard of hearing came up. I kept it on without the sound, and watched a clip of some pro-Russian or very Russian rebels silently shelling Ukrainian positions. Then we started to get to know one another.

We began in the unambiguous way in which they generally begin in pornography films. In musical terms, if I may, her embouchure and handling were virtuoso, the arrangement a rhapsody accelerando with finale. Her repertoire included tremolo and glissando . The mood varied from dolente to furioso to delirio .

During one of the slow movements, I looked up and saw that the news had been paused for a weather forecast. Interested, I studied the symbols on the weatherman's map and carefully watched his pointing arm and read the subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing underneath. The subtitles were computer-generated using speech-recognition software. If in doubt about a word used by the cheerful weatherman, the computer plumped for the word that it had used the most often before in its career. …

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