Melbourne is in lock-down, with a six-week curfew curtailing life in the otherwise vibrant southern city. It’s no laughing matter. However, my little adventure, where I was locked out of a groovy Melbourne hotel room, rather than locked in, might just raise a smile.
‘ONE hot summer evening I arrive at the Brooklyn Arts Hotel, a Victorian mansion in Melbourne’s Fitzroy.
I feel exotic staying in this arty quarter and look forward to an early morning stroll through its bohemian streets.
Hotel owner and artist Maggie Fooke gives me a tour and I’m instantly in love with her beautiful, comfy pension.
The upstairs green room, the best in the house, is furnished with antiques and a piano and private bathroom.
Mine, a lovely pink, is downstairs and across the hall is the purple room. Off a courtyard garden are three more, including the yellow room.
We downstairs guests share four courtyard bathrooms and silk robes are provided.
Maggie’s house is a salon; there’s nothing corporate here. It’s friendly, relaxed and don’t bother to lock your door, she says.
I meet fellow guest Ken who strolls in after a city dinner and I am introduced to Maggie’s friends who turn up for a nightcap.
But my pink room beckons and I’m keen to retire there.
A 3 am toilet trip sees me tip-toeing, silk-robed, over creaky floorboards, to the courtyard. When I return, I discover I’m locked out. No amount of fiddling with the old-fashioned doorknob will get me in.
Maggie lives upstairs but I don’t know where and am loathed to creep about knocking on doors.
I remember my bedroom window is open and think I might be able to squeeze through, but I must prop open the huge front door that leads onto the veranda or it will slam behind me.
I look for something; this arty place yields a bounty of makeshift door stoppers and I pick up a tribal ornament, a warrior’s head I think.
I push my way through the veranda’s jungle of potted plants – where’s a tribal machete when you need one?
There’s a 30-cm gap and I push and shove the window but it doesn’t move. I stand on an ornamental pot to get some height, teetering on the edge as two men wander along the street chatting about bohemian things at 3.30 am. I duck behind a Kentia palm hoping they don’t catch a flash of my silk robe. The men go, but the window doesn’t budge.
My tribal head and I creep back to the lounge room and I drag two regal looking Mozart-style armchairs together to make a bed, grip the scanty silk tighter and try to sleep.
At 6 am I hear footsteps upstairs and expect Maggie to come down. But she doesn’t and I’m cold.
A nearby door opens and Ken emerges, towel in hand, off to the shower. He passes the lounge room window and I wave and he waves back. I motion him to meet me in the hall where I put down the warrior, and tell him my plight.
He doesn’t laugh but tries his key to see if it works, but of course, it doesn’t.
Then he suggests I come into his room and wait for Maggie there. The yellow room is so cosy, the heater is on. I look at all the paintings on the wall, and then he says I should try and get some sleep. He pulls back the covers and smooths out the bed.
There’s nothing for me to do but slide into the unslept-in side, as my knight in shining bathrobe goes off to have a shower.
Lying there cocooned in a buttercup hue, I burst out laughing.
When Ken returns, dressed in his work gear, we chat about art as he packs his clothes into a suitcase.
He’s flying back to Sydney in a few hours and I’m off to visit friends for a few days. We talk about Maggie and her comfy old mansion and Ken goes off to have breakfast, leaving me to sleep.
I never do the Fitzroy walk; my slippers cover enough nocturnal miles in those rustic rose-carpeted halls.
The above story was originally published in The Australian newspaper.
Postscript: All good things seem to come to an end and I’ve recently read that the Brooklyn Arts Hotel has been sold and is set to become a private residence. Artist Maggie Fooke has shut up shop after running the hotel for 15 years. Here’s a story about the sale.