Each Inside No 9 is set in a different, often freaky, location – we asked the cast to tell us about the most hellish places they’ve ever stayed in…
When I first graduated from Bretton Hall College in 1989, I found myself renting a small room in Wakefield with some friends who were still students. It made the house in The Young Ones look like Howard Hughes’s penthouse. Dirty green carpets and brown furniture had been there so long David Attenborough could have done a full series on the abundant life forms that were no doubt living alongside us.
The scariest thing about the property was the dark and musty cellar, which housed ominous-looking bin-bags full of old tools, Christmas decorations and very possibly previous tenants. When my friend John prised the lid from a paint pot, hoping perhaps to brighten up his bedroom with a lick of colour, he was horrified to find a stool inside – and not the kind you sit on.
This grim discovery was the last straw for me and I determined to move out as quickly as possible. But nothing goes to waste, and the turd-in-a-paint-pot story does crop up in an episode of this series of Inside No 9…
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Years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I went into a travel agent’s and had them organise our first holiday abroad together. We wanted somewhere quiet, lovely views, not too many people. The lady looked at us, presumed we were young people and sent us on a package holiday to Kavos, which is the setting of reality show Sun, Sea and A&E. We got there and it was heaving with stag and hen nights. A sea of Viking helmets, L plates and tinsel halos. It was, for us, a previously unexplored circle of Dante’s Hell.
The accommodation was essentially a tiled Portakabin. A potpourri in the bathroom turned out to be a bowl of dried moths. Twin hospital beds in a room resembling a Victorian asylum crossed with community service facility.
We were the only people at breakfast as everyone else was in bed, having been up all night shouting. The beach was a black sliver of seaweed with jumping flies all over it. I think we ended up hiring bikes and trying to pedal away but were stopped by guards at the gate.
The older I get, the more I forget the really awful places, but I remember the bad beds. When I was touring theatres in the 70s in the Highlands, the hotels we stayed in had nylon sheets. You really never knew for sure that somebody hadn’t slept in them just before. These places in such beautiful settings had such terrible rooms.
One night I got into one of these beds and the nylon sheets and there was a polythene bag over the mattress and as I got into the bed I skidded and flew across to the other end, right off the bed. I don’t sleep on nylon sheets any more.
The Yurt! Ugh, the memory makes me shudder. Three years we’d waited for the romantic yurt in Andalucia. Finally, an opening. With excitement and optimism we booked ten nights. There had been a rainstorm the night before our arrival at 4.30pm. The owner apologised for the damp – everything was wet, including the bed. She’d only put a gas heater in 30 minutes before.
Our yurt was tucked away in the lower forest – so there was no sunlight. The dinner, we discovered, was communal, and all Brits. Oh God! We’re in the middle of Spain and the small talk went from Hammersmith to Manchester, Middlesbrough and Lewisham – three of the longest hours of my life.
Then bed. Ants the size of small cats running around the yurt by now. Bed still cold with damp, we lit some incense we’d brought and remained fully clothed. Then the dog barked all night. At 6am we argued our odds, skipped breakfast and ordered our escape taxi.
I thought I’d booked into the official youth hostel in London but soon discovered I’d actually booked an “alternative” youth hostel down the road. When I arrived it was about 11pm. I was told by the man on reception, as he took a drag from his massive joint, that I was in bed “3C”.
When I got to my dorm, I discovered my single private room in fact contained four bunk beds – each three beds high. I opened the curtains on bunk bed 3C to a completely naked 70-year-old woman reading JG Ballard’s Empire of the Sun. She seemed nonplussed by me and casually turned her page. I peeped through more curtains until I eventually found an empty bed. I climbed in and somehow managed to get to sleep.
A few hours later, I woke up to the noise of someone moving around. I pulled back my curtain to see the man from reception in the middle of the room, now no doubt a few spliffs down, wearing massive night vision goggles. That was it!
I left and spent the rest of my night in a 24-hour McDonald’s. But not before politely paying my £40 for the night and thanking them for a lovely stay.
Inside No 9 is on Tuesdays at 10pm on BBC2