A few months ago, a friend and his wife won a weekend at the Savoy Hotel in a raffle. ‘It was a lovely experience’, said my friend. ‘They completely refurbished the hotel a few years ago, spent more than £200 million. The most amazing thing is the power-showers in the bathrooms – so strong that afterwards you feel like you’ve had a full-body massage .’ ‘You could always get one installed at home’, I said, ‘but I wouldn’t advise it – you’d have to reckon with the Savoy shower principle.’ He was naturally puzzled, so I told him the following story.
My parents-in-law, Dennis and June, got married in London in 1940, during the Blitz. For their honeymoon they booked a weekend at the Savoy Hotel. On their second night the hotel’s windows were blown out by a bomb; but they were having such a good time, it hardly bothered them, and the guests and hotel staff responded with immaculate sang-froid.
Every year thereafter they returned to the Savoy on the anniversary of their wedding. I first joined them there for dinner on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1990. Dennis would say that the highlight for him of staying at the Savoy was that the hotel had such powerful showers in the bathrooms. Every year he looked forward to enjoying a powerful jet-shower, and it never disappointed him. By comparison, he said, the shower at home produced a drizzle. When I suggested that he could install a better shower at home, he looked at me as if I was mad.
But a few years later he had to have his home shower replaced, because it was so clogged with limescale that the water flow was reduced to a drip. He found out the make of the Savoy shower and installed one at home. A few months later the night of their Savoy visit came around, and I joined them for dinner. Dennis was in a disconsolate mood. Everything was different, he said. What was the problem, I wondered. It’s the shower, he said; compared to the one at home, the hotel shower seemed lacking in power. What used to be the main treat of his visit had been marred. It cast a shadow over his stay, and over every return visit to the Savoy until his death in 1999.
My friend laughed when I told him the tale. ‘It’s all relative, isn’t it?’ he commented. Yes, enjoyment, perhaps even happiness, is relative. That’s the Savoy shower principle.