On the first floor of a Regency crescent near King’s Cross there is a narrow balcony that runs the length of a curving white façade. A row of floor–to–ceiling windows open out onto this balcony and behind one of their elegant sash frames is the cheapest and possibly smallest hotel room in London.
The room takes its dimensions precisely from the edges of this window. For £38 a night you get a tiny sink, a single bed, a ‘desk’ and a ‘cupboard’. Rationing space by using the narrowest of beds, allows just enough room to fit in a desk exactly wide enough to take a sheet of A4 paper and still leave a gap wide enough to reach the window and sink (if you shuffle sideways).
I slept in this room every other week for a year. Becoming a tourist in my former hometown was an uncomfortable metamorphosis – sharing a breakfast table with families of Brazilian, Spanish or Korean visitors who would politely ask me in stumbling English what I was planning to ‘see’ today. Even though the breakfast was included in the price I soon stopped subjecting myself to their confused and kindly faces and took to stealing a bowl of Muesli the night before, to eat in peace on the deserted balcony.
At the other end of the desk from the door is a plastic kettle. I discovered that late into the night on my way ‘home’ it was still possible to buy a decent samosa from the Ethiopian corner shop. If I trapped the plastic wrapper in the closed lid of the kettle (with the pastry dangling inside) I could then boil a small amount of water 3 or 4 times and deliver a delicious and warm midnight snack.