Wednesday, 28 August 2013


During my time as an MA student and - much to my chagrin - for a while after graduating, I worked as a chambermaid and then a housekeeper at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. It was a love hate tussle between earning money and supporting myself and feeling the lowest of the low. Cleaning up other people's shit makes you feel like a piece of shit yourself. It shouldn’t do, but it does. 

There was a sweeter smelling paradox however, in the fact that hard physical work can often force the muse out of the shadows and I often reflect on how creative I felt during the dual life I lead. Five days of the week I worked full time at the hotel, serving a credit fuelled public (this was the post millennium boomtime when people were pissing their free credit up the wall as well as copious amounts of urine) On the other days of the week and anytime in-between I worked on my MA at the University or at home in my rented flat. When I was at the hotel I carried numerous tiny notebooks and scraps of paper in my overall pockets. I stopped dead in corridors when ideas struck me and sat for precious minutes amongst the linens writing down ideas and scrawling tiny pictures on the hotel note paper, the pristine white towels and sheets towering above me like a sense of martyred responsibility. I based whole projects around the hotel out of necessity. The ideas evolved out of a primordial stew of hot dark carpeted rooms, sweaty polyester uniforms, dirty towels, excrement, hair and dust, half-drunk bottles of champagne and unclaimed lost property. Fuelling the ideas was a vicious feeling for nostalgia and an obsession with the Greek Myths. Visitors to the hotel became heroes and legends, part of the fabric of my imagined narratives and so intertwined became my internal stories with the characters around me I too became part of the tale. Reflected in the glassed and brass surfaces in the elevator interior, I saw Sisyphus glowering back in brassy hues, forever cleaning the finger marks and smears made by the passengers only to have them reappear when my back was turned. On other days I saw Dionysus,six foot and hairy, slinking into the executive suites, heavy doors slamming in the sea breeze behind his cloven feet. Some characters were more modern, like the 6th floor ghost. On busy swelteringly hot summer days and evenings, myth blurred into reality with ease as I ran ragged from room to room delivering extra toiletries and biscuits. Some days I would do a double shift from 8 in the morning until 9 at night. I would stagger home exhausted, brimming with ideas yet bridled with fatigue. Several ideas I formed whilst working there are still to come to fruition. I still have torn fragments of paper with blueprints of projects, waiting to bloom, the pencil marks and scribbles as fresh as the day they were scribed. Other projects I managed to bring into realisation, propelled through the exhaustion by sheer will power. Below is one of them, inspired by this piece of ephemera (click for link). How I longed to travel and to be a visitor to a hotel in a distant land and to be completely wilfully blind and ignorant to the misery of the people working behind the scenes. Having been on the other side of the service door, “back of house”, the illusion of perceived luxury is smeared. This is my own souvenir, hewn from my own experience and just as potent. And yes, it really was that filthy . . . although, not on my watch.

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