Of all the jobs in all the world I think that the one I would least like to do is run a bed and breakfast business. Probably even less than my desire to be an astronaut.
On the face of it, B&B-ing seems quite the oddest thing to do, welcoming strangers into your home, giving them your best bedroom and then cooking breakfast for them when all you want to do is slump over a cup of coffee with the radio for company.
In return, you get a fistful of notes and a pile of laundry that takes a day to wash, dry and iron. Yes, I bet B&B owners have to iron sheets, or pay for them to be laundered.
Of course, there must be more to it than that or people wouldn’t do it. They must be a certain type, with a strong hospitality gene that gives them a permanent smile and a fund of stories to keep the punters entertained while they wait for their breakfast.
All I know is that I simply couldn’t do it. I know that my first failing would be the temptation to weed out potential guests on the doorstep. ‘Hmm,’ I’d think, ‘I don’t like the look of him. Shifty. Half-closed eyes. Obviously a murderer on the run.’ Before I know it, I’ve told a perfectly nice man, weary and crumpled from a long car journey, that I’ve no room available.
Perhaps the most off-putting aspect of all for me is the necessity to have a clean and tidy home into which to welcome guests. Every square inch of ceiling and floor must be so clean your guests could eat their bacon and eggs off it, though to be realistic they wouldn’t, they’d eat off your best plates in your gleaming, showroom kitchen – or perhaps in the dining-room where you’ve had to turn the radiators up to max to get the chill off.
How do you live a normal life when your house has to be in this permanent state of guest-readiness? That ability must come packaged in with the hospitality gene, the one that suffuses B&B hosts with a relaxed and friendly air, immediately making their guests feel they’re in a home from home.
These guests might become friends, returning regularly to enjoy your superb hospitality, or they might just breeze through your life leaving nothing more than a faint memory of their name and a sum on the spreadsheet. Either way, I know I couldn’t be their host. I couldn’t unearth in myself enough to make a B&B work here at Hill Towers, much as we might enjoy the income it could bring.
I know Geoff and I would both have to attend charm school, and stay on to do an extra year, and then there’d be the small matter of having an extension built to accommodate guests.
There are so many little things, too, that convince me of my unsuitability for the role of host. I have a 98% failure rate with fried eggs. It is quite remarkable how much I can be relied upon to break them. I don’t do dinky cushions as decoration on beds, either. I suspect they are de rigeur but really, how utterly pointless.
Finally, and this would be the clincher, I love jugs of flowers everywhere but most of all I love tulips when they’re going over, their colours faded, their petals papery and translucent.
Guests wouldn’t understand that the tulips are not dead, they are just telling a whole other story and being beautiful in a different way. So no, there are no vacancies here.