But in spite of the bad weather and the bad food, I’m happy. Only two hours of work stands between me and a whole night of relaxation in one of Manchester’s ‘grandest’ hotels.

Grand hotels at Christmas-time are high on my list of favourite things. The cosiness, the sparkliness, the bonhomie, the champagne brunches and late-night ports; and the Christmas trees towering in marble foyers, laden with gift-wrapped boxes so beautiful it’s hard to believe they don’t contain real presents.

Manchester does ‘grand’ better than you’d expect, partly due to its size. Buildings that were huge brick factories are now huge brick casinos, huge brick event centres, and huge brick hotels.

My publicist is already in the lobby, seated on the world’s largest leather sofa, dwarfed by enormous marble pillars and a Christmas tree so huge that, were it an athlete, it would be tested for steroids. ‘Isn’t it grand!’ she exclaims.

But when I check in, the first thing I see is a notice almost as big as the Christmas tree. Anyone caught smoking will be fined 250 pounds. I wince. Grand, maybe – but hardly discreet… And when I ask for a Guardian from the newspaper stand, I’m told that papers aren’t complimentary; I will have to fork out a pound for day-old news.

The lift is plastered with signs forbidding food, drink, and flip-flops. I can’t help thinking of George Orwell: All grand hotels are equal, but some are more equal than others… Clearly this grand hotel is like one of the dictatorial pigs in Animal Farm: its main aim is to rule.

My room has been sprayed with heavy lavender room-scent. One deep breath and you’d be dizzy; two and you’d be unconscious. I go to the window, and am greeted by another Orwellian sign. ‘Safety regulations forbid the opening of this window.’

Wheezing, I enter the bathroom. ‘Guests must not let shower curtain trail on the floor,’ reads another reprimanding sign. I turn to close the door. ‘Do not close door or smoke alarm will go off.’ I wince. Isn’t the whole point of hotels to feel indulged, relaxed, a little free?

The hair dryer, I discover, is attached to the dressing table by a very short cord that goes nowhere near the mirror. I try to move the dressing table but it’s nailed to the floor. I try to move the mirror but it’s nailed to the wall. Does the hotel suspect its guests are kleptomaniacs, shuffling out in the morning with furniture hidden under their Burberry raincoats?

When I open the minibar to revel in the little bottles and miniature chocolate, I’m faced with find one more warning sign. ‘This minibar is electronically monitored. Any item removed will be instantly charged for, whether or not consumed.’

Quickly, I slam the door before I can be charged for looking. Perhaps I’m not in a grand hotel at all but in a boarding school – or even some upmarket prison cell? Suddenly, I’m longing to escape and go to work.