I’ve just come back from Japan having spent several exhausting days in Kyoto at the 5th World Parkinson Congress. The conference centre is on the edges of Kyoto, not quite in the middle of nowhere but certainly detached from the main centre of the city. Attached to the conference centre is one of the more unusual hotels one might encounter. A large oval structure on several floors, rather like a football stadium with rooms. I gather it was built only recently. Surprising considering the place had a vaguely Art Deco feel about it. Plush velvet soft furnishings and marble floors with gilding here and there. It was certainly opulent but, given that the rooms were around ¥30,000 a night, you would expect that.
Gosh, I’m beginning to read like Trip Adviser. Perhaps I should allocate marks out of ten.
I couldn’t get over the fact that the hotel was pretty much filled to capacity during the conference but strangely enough, there never seemed to be anybody around. You could walk the corridors, as I did each insomniac night, and meet no one. The bar closed a little after 9 PM, shortly followed by room service. Surely the purpose of room service is to cater for the night owls, suddenly peckish at 2 AM? In the end, I was forced to use a vending machine not far from my room, surviving the nights on a diet of rice crackers and cans of Asahi Japanese lager. Or iced sweet milky coffee on one occasion when I pressed the wrong button on the vending machine.
The sound insulation between rooms was excellent. A good thing except that it contributed inevitably to the all pervading sense of isolation. I couldn’t place the source of my unease but something about the hotel also gave me a strong sense of déjà vu.
It was a couple of days before I could place it. Resting between scientific sessions and daydreaming on one of the chairs near reception, an American scientist I knew caught my eye. He looked straight at me, raised his index finger, bending it in time with his words and croaked “red rum, red rum”. Instantly I knew where I had seen this hotel before.
It was The Overlook. The famous hotel centrepiece in Stanley Kubrick’s film. The colour scheme was the same, the decor similar, even the sense of out of season isolation. I wasn’t attending a conference at all – I was an extra in “The Shining”. I half expected the elevator doors to open with a rush of blood. Or to see Danny on one of my nightly walkabouts, frantically pedalling along the corridors on his trike.
My American scientist friend and I share the in joke. Every time we walked past each other in the lobby, we raised our fingers and croaked “red rum”.
“Sorry, bar closed “said a confused Japanese, presumably thinking we were thirsty. I wasn’t. I was on my way to pick up a friend for a bit of sightseeing. I knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” I heard.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist.