tea at the midland : David Constantine

Winner of the BBC4 2010 short story award, this story by David Constantine is predicated on a frieze by Eric Gill, in the Midland Hotel, Morecambe.

The Midland name is from London Midland Scottish – LMS – a long-defunct UK railway company that opened the hotel in 1933.

As a graphic designer, the ubiquity of Gill Sans (and less kneejerk-choiced typefaces like Joanna and Perpetua) took on a whole different interpretation when Fiona MacCarthy published her disturbing and yet not totally surprising biography of Gill in 1989.

I’ve just finished the excellent A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami. It borrows heavily in minor parts from the tropes of Kings’/Kubricks’ The Shining. The building that is exploded (like the Overlook Hotel in Kings’ novel) is not an hotel but might as well be.

The transient and the devious and the untruthful and the hidden are all components of hotels that have seen the transit of teeming souls over an extended period. Perhaps this inevitable consequence of infusion is why great hotels endure – some kind of moral rogues gallery – like the recently renovated St Pancras Hotel London, Central Station Hotel Glasgow, The Balmoral Edinburgh… the stones and foundations and sculptural misfits, out of sight of casual consciousness, remain – like “the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett bled” (Moby Dick).