The flight from Wellington to Christchurch was completely uneventful. I should have realised it was an omen.
I arrived at my hotel, weary with the day.
"Lo!" I said. "Here I am. Pray show me immediately to the room reserved for me, that I may lie down and sleep the sleep of the just arrived."
There was much clicking of mice and poking of keys and staring at computer screens. Finally, in desperation, written records were consulted.
"I'm sorry, sir. We have no record of your reservation."
"Ha!" I riposted. "Here is written confirmation."
They examined the form supplied by my travel agent.
"Well," said the man behind the counter, "that's certainly the name of our hotel. But the street address is wrong. The address on the form is the address of one of our other hotels in Christchurch. I'll ring them and see if they have your reservation."
He rang the other hotel, but they had never heard of me either.
"I'll tell you what," said the man. "We've got a third hotel in the city. I'll ring them, just on the off chance."
But they too were utterly unfamiliar with my name.
I began to experience the feelings of existential dread commonly associated with having no hotel reservation.
"Do you perhaps have a list of convenient park benches?" I queried. "I hear that they are quite comfortable at this time of the year, though rumour has it that they are a little on the chilly side in the small hours of the morning."
"I'll ring head office," said the man. "Perhaps they will have an explanation for this."
He went into the back, just out of earshot. I heard low mutterings. He came back smiling.
"Well," he said, " it really does appear to be our fault. Somehow your booking has been lost in the system. We do apologise most profusely. So to make it up to you, we will accommodate you in one of our luxury suites, at no extra charge."
Perhaps the travel gods were on my side after all.
The luxury suite had a bedroom with a television, and a lounge with a television and a huge bathroom with two of every feature and fitting except televisions, which were noticeably absent. I felt deprived - I'd been looking forward to watching Coronation Street while sitting on one of the loos. I'd have to settle for just listening to it instead. However I didn't think I'd miss too many plot subtleties.
There was no alarm clock in the bedroom, but that was OK; I had my Palm Pilot which had a built in alarm clock. I set it for 6.30am and retired to bed, where I watched one of the televisions for a time. Most enjoyable. Then I curled up and went to sleep.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
My Palm Pilot woke me up. It was flashing its power switch at me and making horrible noises. Outside it was still dark. I hate winter. I pressed the flashing power switch and the Palm Pilot shut up.
Yawning, I forced my way out of bed and into the bathroom. I turned on one of the showers and waited for the water to reach a civilised temperature. I was just about to climb in when:
Ring! Ring! Ring!
The Palm Pilot was trying to wake me up again. Didn't it realise that I was already up? Obviously just pressing the power button was not sufficient to dissuade it from its self-imposed task. More subtle measures were called for. I yawned back into the bedroom and examined it closely. This time I found an obscure button drawn on the screen. "Alarm Off" it said. I took out the Palm Pilot's pokey stick thing and prodded the button. The alarm shut up. I turned the power off again and went back to the shower.
Later, abluted and only mildly moist, I took my towel into the bedroom. I turned on the television in order to watch the news on the breakfast show. Oddly, all I could find was motor racing. No breakfast show. Strange...
I finished drying myself and began to get dressed. Powerful formula one racing cars screamed round the track. The commentator was so excited that he utterly lost the power of speech and was reduced to communicating with an incoherent babbling of words that seemed to contain no vowels. Most extraordinary. I picked up my watch, strapped it to my wrist, and glanced idly at the dial.
That was when I discovered that nobody had told my Palm Pilot about daylight saving. It had dutifully woken me at what it was convinced was 6.30am. Unfortunately the rest of New Zealand thought it was 5.30am. No wonder it was so dark outside. No wonder I still felt tired after my shower. No wonder I could only get motor racing on the television.
There being nothing else to do, I went down to breakfast. Not unnaturally I was the only person there. The waitress poured me coffee and fetched me toast. She seemed grateful to have something to do and hovered attentively, refilling my coffee cup whenever I took a sip. I breakfasted in the solitary luxury of the huge restaurant. It seemed as though there were hundreds of tables covered in acres of gleaming white tablecloths. I felt quite guilty about the coffee stains and crumbs that I was leaving on mine.
It was far too early to go into work, but I went anyway.
That evening, exhausted, I carefully checked the time on the Palm Pilot and compared it to the time on my wrist. I got out the pokey stick thing again and prodded the Palm Pilot awhile. Now the two times agreed to the second. I turned the alarm on and watched something that wasn't motor racing on one of the televisions. I got bored, and watched something else that also wasn't motor racing on the other television. I went into the bathroom and washed my hands in one wash basin. Then I washed my face in the other wash basin. I contemplated the two toilets and used them both, for different purposes. Then I went to bed.
I opened my eyes. I was wide awake. I wondered what time it was. I turned on the light and stared at my watch, which stared back at me. It was 5.30am. The Palm Pilot sat smugly. It wasn't going to ring for an hour yet. It knew what it's responsibilities were. My body clock had betrayed me this time.
I considered going back to sleep, but instead I got up and used the shower that I hadn't used yesterday. I watched the motor racing for a while. This morning, for a change, the commentator's vocabulary contained no consonants. I went down to breakfast and yawned my way through cereals, toast and an amazing amount of coffee.
That evening, after work, I decided to go for a drink. Just across the road from the hotel was a pub which sold Guinness. However when I went in, I discovered that they also sold Bailey's Best Bitter and they had a special offer on. If you drank five pints, the sixth was free! Fortunately not all of the pints had to be drunk on the same night. What Yorkshireman could resist such an offer? Certainly not me. I drank several pints and vowed to return the next night and, ultimately, claim my freeby.
Bailey's Best Bitter obviously did the trick, for the next morning I was awoken at precisely 6.30am by the gleeful ringing of my Palm Pilot. I showered and shampooed (though only once) and finally got to watch the news on the breakfast show. However I felt that the motor racing commentary of the previous two days had been considerably more lucid. The breakfast room was crowded and I utterly failed to obtain a second cup of coffee.
Nevertheless, for the rest of the week I drank Bailey's Best Bitter and it never failed to work. I recommend it highly.