June 20, 2014 6:13 pm

A bathroom standing joke

If the Queen mentions Prince William, she can hardly be accused of name-dropping

An online commentator called “Bingo688” has called me the biggest name-dropper of all, but only a “bronze” medal winner because I do it without any subtlety. Bingo must think that name-dropping, with its derogatory innuendo of being a bit of a show-off, constitutes the mere mention of a famous name. This is a slippery argument because the dropping of a name per se should always be judged in context. Consider the proposition that the Queen drops Prince William as a name. I hardly think Her Majesty could be accused of being a name-dropper. Or if Bill Gates mentioned Warren Buffett, or vice versa. Are these billionaires “name-dropping”? They are not because they obviously know each other as close friends, just as the Queen knows her grandson rather well.

There are many other contexts in which mentioning a name should not carry the unflattering accusation of name-dropping. For example, whenever US marine William Durkin mentioned Howard Hughes, he would merely be relating the remarkable tale of when he saved the life of the world’s richest man who happened to crash his plane in front of him, rather than being engaged in name-dropping. The late Norman St John-Stevas was a master of this. When asked why he consistently name-dropped, he replied: “Funny you should say that. Only this morning the Queen Mother said the same to me.” Come on, Bingo, your argument doesn’t seem to live up to the success your name suggests.

I write about the absence of chairs or stools in the bathrooms of high-end hotels. A stay at a flash hotel in Miami last year had us in a suite of rooms with a huge art-deco style bathroom, beautifully decorated in black and white, but with nowhere to sit or put one’s “undies” or socks.

The lack of a chair in a sumptuous bathroom is intensely irritating. When I encounter such stupidity in a hotel suite, I lug a chair from the room into the bathroom to demonstrate my dismay. Perhaps the designer was French, for apparently that nation does not douche very often and its people are not sensitive to the time spent in a bathroom and wouldn’t think of installing a chair for a leisurely slump. Equally irritating is the lack of a table in front of the loo itself. Don’t you hate having to put your iPad or iPhone or a book on the floor? Yet “high-end” designers would never think of even putting a ledge nearby. It boggles my mind that very successful hotel chains, apparently run by very clever people, appear to employ designers without any experience as a consumer.

Another irritation that I often encounter in hotel bathrooms is the lack of a fan in a hot place and an instant heater in a cold place. The fact is the temperature gauge of even the most sophisticated hotel cannot please all users because some of us love our bathroom warm or hot, while others want it cold or cool – and we want the right temperature the instant we get into the bathroom and take off our clothes. Worst of all is the extensive use of marble in hotel bathrooms. On floors it is slippery and should be the last material used. Yet it is ubiquitous. It also exposes the shabbiness of the naked body, especially for those of us whose contours do not exactly trace those of David Beckham or Elle Macpherson.

I recently wrote a tiny book set in a former Portuguese colony in Asia, and self-published it on Amazon under an unrecognisable name. Part of me wants my family and friends to know that I wrote it, and part of me does not. What should I do?

It wouldn’t make any difference whether you use a pseudonym or not if you are neither famous nor an established good writer. All three of the Brontë sisters used male pen names because at that time, women were not allowed to publish books, incredible though this may sound. Then there was of course George Eliot who wanted her novels to be taken seriously in a man’s world, which was hardly necessary as she trotted out, inter alia, Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss. Lewis Carroll was conjured up by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as some convoluted re-translation from English into Latin and back into English, which must have been amusing for him as he was a mathematician and loved conundrums as is amply exemplified in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I doubt, however, that your literary merits would come up to the measure of the likes of the Brontë sisters, Eliot or Carroll, so don’t worry about it. It will make no difference to you.

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