The trouble began at my reassuringly old-fashioned hotel when I'd drunk several large whiskies

It looked absolutely fine in The Good Hotel Guide. What better way could there be of getting over the disappointing news that my proposed Radio 4 series on globalisation had been rejected than to pack a spare sweater and a bottle of Jameson's and set off for the weekend to a guest-house by the sea in Kent which the guide described as "reassuringly old-fashioned"? I also learned from the guide that The Trollops was full of "delightful objets d'art" and wonderfully run by the "ever-attentive" Pam and Tom McCutcheon.

An hour's wait for my connection at Ashford meant that I eventually arrived slightly after 11pm. But the female half of the admirable McCutcheons welcomed me enthusiastically, and showed me to my room ("The Starling's Nest") on the first floor. A thoughtful little brochure on the bedside table explained that the name of the guest-house was "lost in the mists of time". There were those who thought it might be derived from "trolloping", a traditional term for the practice of bundling hop branches, but there was also a minority view that it referred to the "decidedly loose morals" of a group of young women who had occupied the building in the early part of the 18th century.

By the time I'd finished the brochure and a pamphlet on historic walks in the area, I'd drunk several large whiskies from the toothbrush glass and felt ready for bed. This was when the trouble began. On the way to my room, Mrs McCutcheon had urged me to duck at several points in the corridor, but she'd not advised similar caution in my room, so I was quite unprepared when rising from the lavatory seat to find my head hitting an overhead beam with sufficient force to send me sprawling across the bathroom floor. Matters were not helped when I attempted to lever myself into a sitting position by grasping the towel rail immediately above my head. One sharp pull and the entire rail, together with a large framed notice extolling the environmental benefits of not using too many towels, detached themselves from the wall and crashed about me.

This was only the beginning. Once in bed, I reached casually for the switch on the bedside light and found that I'd sent a large vase of spring daffodils crashing to the floor. And at breakfast, despite all my efforts to move gingerly between the various objets d'art that littered the dining-room, I managed to knock a china pixie to the floor, bruise my knee on the leg of the tiny table bearing the name of my room, and then as an encore trod heavily on one of the several dozen house cats as I went to help myself to a second cup of coffee.

By now, I was consumed by a Lilliputian fantasy in which I was unable to take a single step without further destroying several dozen more of the attractive features that had originally secured The Trollops its prominent place in the guide. There was no alternative. I checked out a day early before I could do any more damage.

"I hope everything was to your satisfaction," said Mrs McCutcheon after we'd reached a satisfactory agreement over the cost of the towel rail and the flower vase and the pixie and a small picture of the High Street in 1850, which I'd swept off the wall as I was manoeuvring my case down the hallway. "Oh yes!" I assured her. "Absolutely fine. It's just that I'm a little too big for The Trollops." As she raised the latch on the door, Mrs McCutcheon gave me what could only be called a reassuringly old-fashioned smile.

This article first appeared in the 31 January 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why arms sales are bad for Britain