Helen Grange

I happen to know that Johannesburg is the hideaway for architects, interior designers and techies who “only do luxury lodges”. “Hideaway” is about right because they would have some explaining to do if the guinea pigs they’ve perpetrated their idealistic experiments on could find them.

There’s the kettle cord that’s an inch too short to set the kettle on a table, rendering you in a praying position on the floor in order to fill your cup.  The bed post that obscures the flatscreen TV by an inch. Hunting for the elusive dimmer light switch easily makes up one of the activities on your holiday list. And my personal favourite, the door that just doesn’t respond to the ‘open sesame’ key card after a night at the downstairs cocktail bar.

Recently I endured a slew of such design-over-function idiocies, which nearly resulted in a spot of blood on the marbled corridors. After cooing over the gorgeous sea view from my sublimely appointed room at an Eastern Cape establishment, I ran a bath, only to discover there was no way to get into it without, um, splitting my, er, difference, so wide was its beautifully tiled surround.

My errant partner contemplated a run and leap strategy, but with some nifty amateur acrobatics, we eventually edged over this hurdle with a splash. Getting out again was another matter, of course. Let’s just say the spectacle was not particularly conducive to romance.

A big lodge trend at the moment is the do-it-yourself coffee machine, which comes with a choice of little tubs of designer coffees that you insert, then push a switch to get it all going. If you don’t watch it like a hawk, it flows over onto the French polished table. The other problem is the water it produces.  It only gets luke warm. But you’re stuck with it, because the proprietors have removed the coffee sachets in the assumption that you’d much rather imbibe a tepid beverage made by their snazzy new machine.

When luxury sucks

Then there are the devices you must master, only to leave just as you’ve accomplished this bewildering feat. As I write this, I’m in a game lodge suite almost totally encased in glass so there’s a panoramic view of the bush, yet I’m enduring a sort of Chinese torture, courtesy a dripping bath tap. The maintenance man can’t fix it because the washer for this suave piece of ablutionary equipment can only be sourced in Italy.

It has taken me an age to find all the light switches, all on dimmers that never quite dim to extinct, so when I was ready to turn in last night I loitered about for a good 10 minutes , bare feet on a cold floor (because the underfloor heating isn’t working), haplessly pressing my finger on a switch while watching the lights dim and flare but never actually turn off.  I sometimes wonder if I’m on candid camera.

This morning the plug in the elegant designer basin simply wouldn’t budge to allow the water to drain. But by this time – having spent a cold night under dim lights and without even a hot coffee to cheer me up on waking – I thought I’d leave it to the staff. Along with the goodnight chocolate I accidentally squished during restless turnabouts inside the 300 threadcount sheets!