I found a seedy hotel not far from the station, where you would expect to find one. France has some of the finest seedy hotels in the world. Elegance tends to be uniform: seediness surprises. I like three or four different types of wallpaper in the same room, and not knowing which fixture isn’t working or is going to come off in your hand.

I explained at reception that I just had my money stolen on the train, and that I’d like a cheap room. They understood. It was obvious that they dealt with much more outlandish customers than grimy philosophers in grave difficulty with their world ranking, and that weird and deleterious as I thought I was, they had handled odder oddities.

A passport seemed to satisfy the receptionist. ‘The English are always welcome here,’ he said, as if there was a reason. It didn’t seem any way to run a business. I’m not sure I would have let myself in, but the place didn’t seem burdened with customers. A lanky youth in a cheap black leather jacket and half a haircut was slumped in an armchair, waiting openly, as if he was paid to sit there to heighten the disreputability of the establishment.

The Black Sheep