Items left in Travelodge hotel rooms last year included a python and a bucket of live crabs

There’s something I’d like to share with you, a piece of advice I was given about packing, but the trouble is, it’s going to sound like a name drop, because it came from Hillary Clinton. I’ve considered various options – “It is said that Hillary Clinton…”, for example – but none works because it is important you know it comes from the horse’s mouth. Not that I’m comparing the US Secretary of State with a horse.
So we’re just going to have to get it over with, stop stalling, cut to the chase, bite the bullet, grin and bear it, say “enough already” and come straight out with it. Mrs Clinton once told me that the secret to packing — and she should know because she must be, by now, the most well-travelled person in the world — is to roll up your clothes.
Now I see that in print it doesn’t seem all that impressive. Perhaps not worth the build-up. But it really works, especially when it comes to trousers, and since she told me about it 10 years ago, I have always rolled.
Not only do you not get creases but it also leaves you more room in your suitcase for the heavy hardbacks that your wife says you are mad to take when you could take paperbacks instead. Or even a Kindle. For goodness’ sake.
I would like to augment the Secretary of State’s advice with a piece of my own. When checking out of a hotel room, always look under the bed. Now, compared to her advice mine might seem a little prosaic, a statement of the blindingly obvious, indeed; but you would be surprised how few people abide by it. A survey by Travelodge this week showed that the items left in hotel rooms this past year included a python, breast implants and a bucket of live crabs. There were also 7,000 copies of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which is perhaps a little more understandable.
In more upmarket hotels, as the recent BBC documentary series about Claridge’s revealed, guests are wont to leave huge wads of cash in the safe, $5,000 in one case. And if it is not claimed within six months the maids are allowed to keep it, which is nice.
But the same applies to having guests at your house. We have had people to stay over the holidays and every day we are finding alien objects, such as a head massager, a single sock, a phone charger, a toothbrush and sunglasses. (I know, sunglasses this winter – what were they thinking?)
A few months ago, my wife came across an item of women’s underwear that had been through our wash, and held it up in what I can only describe as a mock accusative manner. She knew they weren’t hers, and all our children are boys. That left only one other possibility… Exactly, a female guest must have left them. (She knows I’m far too lazy to have an affair.)
I’m worse than most at leaving things at people’s houses though: whenever I go to stay with my parents, my mother always says, as I’m leaving: “I’ll post the things you’ve forgotten.” It’s usually a laptop charger, a hat and a pair of headphones.
It could be worse. I used to know a rather well-cushioned architectural writer, whom I won’t name for reasons that will become apparent. He would be invited as a guest to stay at the grand country houses he was writing about, and afterwards the chatelaine would sometimes find little rips in her dresses because he had been trying them on when he thought no one was around.
And Cyril Connolly, as a house-guest, was notorious for leaving plates of half-eaten food in drawers, and marking his place in books from his host’s library with rashers of cooked bacon.
I won’t hear a word said against lovely, cheerful Sarah Montague, who always makes the day seem a little less forbidding. This past week on Radio 4’s Today programme she got some stick for announcing the date as “the 3rd of October” by mistake. But what a good idea. Why can’t we all agree to put the calendar back by three months and make good use of those extra days? I will learn calligraphy, work on my tennis serve, and take some Spanish guitar lessons. How about you?