Durham: China Joes
I leave JB Priestleys statue and the Whose Terror Is It Anyway Conference and head for the historic city of Durham two and an half hours train journey further up country towards Scotland. The further away I get from London the more mono-cultural Englandbecomes.
Using google Maps on my cell phone at Durham train station I find The Kings LodgeHotel a few minutes away. Compared to The Kings Lodge Hotel The Adams Family mansion is top notch: don't believe the pictures on the website. It's seens better days and is a couple of stars less worthy of its three star status and one star below Fawlty Towers.I am staying here for an extra night. Tomorrow night I shall be on stage. My room is situated above the kitchen where there is a constant other-worldly sub basshumming noise. I return down to what is hilariously called Reception where I amtold the noise “comes from the kitchen fans and gets turned off at between 9.30pm and 10pm”.
I look at the receptionist blinking. She blinks back at me. I return the blink. She blinks back again. I make a note to speak to the booking agent – not my regular one. Now the landlady is stood next to the receptionist, blinking too. There could be trouble. I trudge back to my room with a note to myself to be positive.
The humming is driving me nuts so I leave the mansion of hell to find food. The temperature has dropped and a short walk away I find a Chinese restaurant. But If there is a worse Chinese restaurant I haven’t found it yet. It's called China Joes and has something called a dynasty buffet. Dysentry buffet more like. The duck was so dry itfavoured shredded cardboard. The plum sauce was a cross between cough medicineand something the duck would deliver after a food complaint of its own. Vile. Spare ribs in OK sauce where knuckles of pig dropped into strawberry jam. I felt sorry for the people of Durham. But my thoughts were drowned out as a large family party, like lunatics returning to the asylum for a free meal, entered. They were happy as pigs in swill. This was clearly their regular Chinese.
What disgusted me most of all was the disrespect a restaurant must have for its customers to serve them this. That’s the beauty of competition and critical mass. If ever there was a case for pro immigration it is this. I paid and returned to the hotel, to the humming room, my mouth coated in a phlegm of slimy oil and jam: I can’t get rid of the taste. I peep into the empty dining room and a head pops up “just looking I say” and I peep into the empty bar.
At about eleven pm I am treated to the incessant loop of a strangled choking duck as the hotel chef tries comically for half an hour to get his moped to start. My bedside lamp switches off without me even touching it. I try to call reception but the rooms phone doesn't work..... I can handle this.... I tell myself... it can happen.... postscript
I write this blog the day after it's publication date. And as I write it the landlady/owner is having a meeting with a man who is asking for her drinks license. I" I don't know where it is" she says in a warm geordie accent "you'll ahve one somewhere" he says with a grinning smile. "can I have a wander around to look at the place" he says . I think he is hear to buy the place or sell it or remainder it or liquidate it. It is all quite depressing.
She asks if he wants company as he views the premises. Is this how it's done, then. Nicely. In meetings, by polite gentlemen asking if asbestos was used in the building in hushed bvarely concealed tones. As I put this blog up. I am in the dining area. And he in baige coat and pants and cheap shoes, is taking devouring pictures. I can hear it clicking. These are not pictures for an album. The camera seems violent.