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The Hotel Biscuit


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Ronan's report

Sunday August 7th 2011

There's a kind of hotel, just above "very basic" where, when you arrive at your room (no mini-bar!), there by the bed will be a small tray. On the small tray will be a tiny kettle (with too-short cord neatly coiled), two cups and saucers, two teaspoons, a small bowl containing a sachet assortment of instant coffee, hot chocolate, and some tea bags. There's also a bowl with sugar sachets and exactly three small plastic pots of UHT milk. There's always and odd number of milk containers for some reason – you'd think they'd put out milk in multiples of the number of cups.

In addition there will be a couple of biscuits. These will be of a kind you've never seen anywhere else but in a hotel room. They're sometimes called “coffee biscuits” but I'm not sure why; they don't particularly go with instant coffee, and they aren't coffee flavoured.

You would never buy these biscuits for your own house (assuming you could actually find them in the shops) but, here's the thing: After a hard day on the road, or in meetings, talking to people you wouldn't particularly choose to talk to, lugging bags and laptop around for hours, these biscuits are just the job. They're sweet without being sickly. They go well with tea. And best of all, they're right there, within reach, exactly when you need them. A small, but very real pleasure.

It's easy to miss these moments in the headlong rush to get to where we think we want to be.

Where we think we want to be. Where is that exactly?

Half-way to nowhere in the Russian tundra? Surrounded by turquoise sea and silver sand flats in the Seychelles? Anywhere as long as there's a stout fly-rod bent double somewhere in the proceedings? Those things are brilliant to do, and if we can create the opportunity we should embrace it and go at the thing full throttle.

But few of us can live that life permanently. So what about the time in between? The secret is to seek out the small, but very real pleasures in life, and to mark them down as "worthwhile things":

The sweet smell of a fresh summer morning.
The sound of a blackbird.
The reassuring heft of your favourite fly rod in your hand.
The platinum splinters of small fish riffling the shallows.
The satisfaction of the perfect whip-finish.
The curl of the water off the bow of a boat.
The sound of heavy rain on the hood of your rain-jacket.
The warmth of a thick fleece, back at the car, after a chilly and fishless evening in the river.

The sweet taste of the hotel biscuit.


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