April 4, 2014 6:49 pm

The hotel that lost its composer – and loos with the best views

In the toilet of one Australian brewery the graffiti reads: ‘You never buy the beer, you just rent it’

It is gratifying for me to discover that quite a few readers have contacted me via FT.com to comment about my observations on the provisions and our habits in loos.

A few have nominated the loos with the best views although they could hardly beat the one at the Philippe Starck restaurant atop The Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong. Both the men’s and women’s look down on to a maize of streets and buildings and, at night, a kaleidoscope of lights. But perhaps more interesting is the one at a brewery in Fremantle which apparently allows a standing participant to look through a glass panel into the fermentation chamber, which reminded the author of graffiti that read: “You never buy the beer, but just rent it.”

Another reader was curious about my choice of music in the bathroom. I must confess I always want music in the background, although most of the time I just flick on the wireless. In England I oscillate between Classic FM or Radio 3 or Radio 4. Otherwise, I often like something jarring and very loud with which to wake myself up – something avant-garde like Messiaen, which is banned by my wife elsewhere in the home because she thinks it all sounds like a racket. Otherwise, it’s often Bach in the morning, Haydn for elevenses, Schubert or Mozart at lunch, Delius, Bantock or Bliss in the afternoon, and Mahler or Sibelius at night; and if I get up in the middle of the night, I would automatically go for Berg’s Sonata No 1, a masterpiece of mystery and atmosphere.

. . .

Should an Englishman who only speaks English abroad be annoyed or amused when he encounters incidences of “lost in translation” at, say, a hotel when what is being asked for is misunderstood?

There is a certain amount of arrogance around the world about the use of English. But the language is practically useless in the whole of South America and nobody really speaks English in Japan. Even in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, with their colonial past, there are always many cases of misinterpretation. An English friend of mine was once staying at a very grand hotel in Hong Kong when he asked the concierge to get in a CD of Beethoven’s Egmont overture – because he wanted to give it to his godson who was called Egmont. The concierge was a little confused on the telephone and asked my friend to spell the word. “B-e-e-t-h-o-v-e-n”, my friend helpfully replied and repeated the name “Beethoven”, whereupon the concierge further enquired, “Is he a guest of the hotel?” My friend was amused and said, “No. Beethoven is dead.” There was a moment of silence and the concierge finally uttered the immortal words, “Better call security”.

. . .

My social invitations are running dry as the Kalahari – I am no longer the thigh-slapping chumster who brings mirth and merriment to every dining table. I have spent 50 years singing for my supper and now find myself more reflective and sérieuse. No one seems to like my new persona – should I mind?

Never mind. Rest on your laurels that you have had a good innings of half a century which is always a respectable score. Even the likes of Gina Lollobrigida must surrender to the inexorability of a setting sun. Now concentrate on the pavilion of retirement and watch quietly from there how the younger and more dynamic shine. But if you want to bat on, then you might have a better chance by reinventing yourself as a host rather than a guest. It is always easier to invite people than expect people to invite you. And if you succeed in building up a reputation of having an interesting lot, your guests would want to come to you even if they merely harbour the ulterior motive of meeting others.

. . .

When is it too late for a work colleague to telephone one at night – I think 10.45pm is de trop?

The measure of a good relationship is precisely how late one could ring the other. But nowadays texting or emailing on mobile devices is much less intrusive than calling, and timing becomes less of a deciding factor. There is, of course, WhatsApp, which offers voice exchanges and is, I gather, very popular among the young. Certainly in China its equivalent WeChat is exceedingly popular among both the young and the fossils. Maybe it’s because it’s much more convenient and faster to speak than write out all the characters in Chinese.

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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