It's the oldest trick in the book: go to a fancy restaurant. Order an enormous, sumptuous meal. Eat it with relish. Leave a small amount of food on your plate (perhaps the uninspiring salad garnish or other bit of the meal that didn't interest you). Add to it a dead cockroach you brought with you. Call management and complain loudly; threaten to take the restaurant to court for poor hygiene standards. Back down graciously as waiters bring you a free dessert and grovelling free coffee. Never eat there again.
American lawyer Sidney Bluming and wife Cynthia have taken this idea a little further and are suing a luxury London hotel for millions of dollars for the distress and rashes caused by bed bugs found in their bed.
The mega-expensive Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Park Lane (the cheapest room we could find was the Courtyard Room with twin beds at the Internet Rate of £315.00 for one night) afflicted the visiting couple last May and made their five night stay very unhappy indeed. Instead of exclusive aromatherapy massages and fragrant, luxurious pampering in the spa, the Blumings were scratching away at angry red bites and irritated rashes.
It's difficult to make a night of it in the capital when all you want to do is lie in bed trying to calm your blotchy inflamed skin - but unbeknownst to the American couple, staying in bed was exactly what caused the outbreak and was making it worse as their luxury holiday limped on. They would have been better off picking up mild e-coli in a Mayfair oyster bar instead.
Bites and rashes from bed bugs are harder to fake than a strategically placed dead cockroach in a restaurant, and we are certain that even in the best hotels, you can't avoid mattresses and furnishing acquiring unpleasant insect friends. Still, we have to take them at their word when they claim the bed bugs infested their luggage and survived the flight home to Manhattan, where they continued to wreak havoc to the couple's life until they fumigated their entire apartment and replaced all their goods. We know bed bugs are resilient but these guys sound indestructible and vengeful.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is very contrite and have helpfully handed over the matter to their insurers. They are keen to stress that this unfortunate episode of insect infestation is an isolated incident. Nonetheless, if it can happen at the Mandarin Oriental, it can happen anywhere and the bench next to Derelict Santa on Shepherds Bush Green at 1% of the hotel's room rate (£3.15 for a can of extra-strength lager and a miniature pork pie is the necessary deposit on your night on the Green) suddenly doesn't look that bad.