After playing in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England on a Saturday night at the end of May, I drove all night back to my home in Scotland.
It was not by choice.
My manager had spent much of the afternoon on the internet and the telephone trying to sort a night’s accommodation for me.
She had waited too long to book a room, but this was not the first time this had happened and we were both confident she would find something.
She contacted privately owned hotels, hotel chains, bed-and-breakfasts, and guest houses, first in Tunbridge Wells, and, when that didn’t work, in the villages and towns in the surrounding area.
Everything was fully booked.
She was told there were lots of weddings going on, that this weekend was the official opening of the summer tourist season, and that Kent was one of England’s most popular sight-seeing counties.
After the sound check at the Trinity Theatre, I walked over to a hotel I had stayed at on a previous visit to Tunbridge Wells, thinking I might get lucky with a last-minute cancellation.
Maybe they would know of other hotels my manager had not checked?
The hotel was fully booked, but the owner was incredulous that there were no rooms available anywhere.
He called six other hotels in the area.
All were fully booked.
Before starting my show at 8pm, I asked the theatre duty manager for help finding a hotel room or a place to stay.
She too could not believe there were no rooms available anywhere in the town or the surrounding area.
While I was playing my show she made calls, got another staff member to make calls, and got friends to call friends to try to sort something.
After my show I was told there was no result, other than an offer of an inflatable mattress on an audience member’s living room floor. I politely declined the offer, believing my predicament would certainly find resolution up the road.
At 11pm, when the gear and guitars were loaded in the car and I was ready to leave, I called my manager.
We decided the next step would be for her to call hotels along my route home, all the way up to Scotch Corner (five hours north), where I would be turning left to cross the Pennines, and beyond which it would be the next morning and there would be no point in getting a room.
Speaking on my bluetooth headset while driving north on the A1, I learned there were no rooms available anywhere she had tried.
She was told by one hotel in the north that all the hotels “in the region” were booked because the popular band Take That was playing in the area.
When she called me at 2am, I told her to get some sleep. I would figure something out.
Surely, I thought, as a last resort, those ubiquitous 24-hour hotel chains (Days Inn, Travel Lodge etc.) located at motorway services along my route would have rooms available.
So I thought.
Throughout the rest of the night I stopped at one motorway hotel after another only to be told they were fully booked…even ones in rural areas.
Was it something about this particular end-of-May weekend?
In the U.S. it’s called Memorial Day Weekend, and it is a
What was the same weekend called over here? Nothing in particular, yet the entire country from top to bottom seemed to have checked into hotel rooms.
I eventually stopped at a services near the Scottish border, dangerously tired. I napped in the car for an hour, then drove the last 2 1/2 hour leg home, arriving at 9am seriously fried.
The lesson learned: never assume you will find a hotel room on short notice.