April 18, 2014 6:21 pm

The curse of lumpy mattresses and artificial hotel aromas

‘I hate the scent that Shangri-La hotels use. It reminds me of a detergent from boarding school’

Speaking of incense, I wonder what everyone thinks of the relatively new trend of putting a scent into the air-conditioning systems of hotels, so the lobby has a lingering and hopefully pleasant aroma? Or does that leave some feeling incensed?

It is pleasant if the scent is pleasant. Different people like different smells. I absolutely hate the one Shangri-La hotels use. It reminds me of a detergent from boarding school. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have scent pumped into any central air-flowing system, as residual aroma is bound to stick inside the pipes over time, and one would become stuck with one smell. Much better to have the flexibility of changing scents regularly. Certainly, a scent in any public loo is essential. When there is the faintest stench, I find myself having to practise the art of snorkelling by holding my breath for as long as possible. And yes: I am incensed when I find people being mean about using aromatic camouflages in sanitary conditions.

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I am thinking of consciously uncoupling from my original mattress which has become lumpy – can you recommend a luxurious mattress maker for coupledom?

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David Tang

I am amused by the topical phrase “conscious uncoupling” you have cleverly applied to your mattress. I’m not sure, however, if the delectable Gwyneth Paltrow and her uncoupling spouse, pop icon Chris Martin, would be flattered by the comparison. Just imagine being a mattress and having this glamorous couple on top every night! How they have made their mattress metaphorically lumpy is probably not comprehensible to most of us mortals untouched by Hollywood stardom. For your own relatively mundane mattress, I would suggest you simply turn it over. This method of sleeping on the original bottom side should do the trick. If you’ve already turned your mattress or are determined to replace it, then you must think, given “conscious uncoupling”, whether you should have one new big mattress or two new connecting mattresses, rather than worry about what brand. My wife complains that I move too much at night and prefers two mattresses, albeit zipped up along the centre seam. But this could become a classic trap for one’s elbow to sink into, with scenarios evocative of Inspector Clouseau, which does not make it ideal for seduction. Safer, therefore, to have one big mattress.

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The habit of turning nouns into verbs is neither ugly nor American: Shakespeare was at it before the U S of A was even a twinkle in somebody’s eye. “Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle”, the great man wrote, for example.

Shakespeare is a bad example, for if there is one person on earth qualified to use poetic licence, it’s the Bard. If he had jumbled all his words together, and to many that’s all he ever did, he would still have been forgiven, given his greatness. On the other hand, Americans flog nominalisation to death in the vernacular. Even worse, they regard it as an intelligent linguistic pastime. “Let’s all focus on the build” would, for example, drive me to aural despair. Yet I can just see some smug hedge fund manager thinking this sort of jargon identifies them as smart and savvy, when the truth is more the exposure of an upstart destined for the distress sale of a Porsche Carrera.

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Sir, David Tang evokes the Wodehousian world of Jeeves and Wooster as being art deco and is probably right. However, there would not have been an art deco cocktail cabinet at Bertram Wooster’s home in Berkeley Mansions; Jeeves prepared his pick-me-ups in his kitchen and at cocktail time wafted in with a drinks’ tray to keep his master’s tonsils lubricated. Pip pip.

I didn’t say there was a cocktail cabinet at Bertie’s home. It certainly is true that in famous television series of Wooster and Jeeves, played by Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, there was only a tray for drinks in the drawing room, and Jeeves always prepared his concoctions in the kitchen. Should we rely on one stage interpretation? I was always surprised that the kitchen opened into the drawing room and this must raise suspicion, especially when there was a perfectly good dining room in which he occasionally entertained his aunts. The main point is I’ve not read in Wodehouse any specific mention that there was NOT a cocktail cabinet in Bertie’s drawing room. As an honourable member of the Wodehouse Society, I stand to be corrected!

I would like readers to post comments and questions online at the end of articles rather than via email. That way we can have a debate of spontaneous and dynamic responses.

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Letter in response to this article:

Let’s hope Jeeves is in the Offing / From Mr Christopher Bellew

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