Chapter Number 1
Welcome to the start of the diary of my new venture into the Hotel Trade, a completely different occupation to that which I have just discarded without a second thought.
Working many years as a mortuary assistant, I often yearned for some conversation and glamour in my life. I don’t seem to make friends easily and find it difficult to strike up a conversation that doesn’t finish prematurely when one is asked what one does for a living.
Naturally I used to lie and say I worked on the buses or the trains - anything! - but the problem was that on the few occasions a new found friend would want to see me home I would find, on returning to the lounge after disappearing to make the tea or pour a drink, they would be looking at my bookshelves somewhat quizzically and trying to resist the temptation to touch “The Embalmers’ Trade Supply Catalogue”, or read the latest article such as “FORMALDEHYDE EXPOSURES IN EMBALMING FOR WHOM THE TOXIC BELL TOLLS” - a great read incidentally, and very informative, although I won't be sorry to leave this part of my past behind me.
This, and my collection of interesting but very minor dissecting instruments (all quite legal however) now preserved for posterity, adorn and add interest to my bookshelves but seem to make people (quite unreasonably in my view) edgy. They begin asking the most morbid questions, and as much as one tries to veer away from the subject of dealing with the deceased it crops up again and again – often at the most frustrating of times. To get them into bed at this stage is nigh on impossible.
Even if I can get them as far as the bedroom, I find them looking at the bed linen carefully. I have long ago given up having silk on the beds as I am convinced that people thought it was made from the leftovers at work. The only odd bits I have ever brought home were a few handles that could not be used - the lacquer had started to peel – but which, with a bit of care and attention, I discovered made beautiful wardrobe handles.
Perhaps it’s the job after so many years but I like dark, heavy curtains and, I must admit possibly, although I don’t see why really, the delightful small children’s Victorian coffin I use as an ottoman at the end of the bed. However I realise this can be off-putting for the squeamish, so if I can get to it in time I try to cover it with some old lace curtains kept just for this purpose. This, and the odours of embalming fluid which seem to linger no matter how much I quickly dash around squirting Haze air freshener, seems to add to the general nervousness and apparent recoil when gently touching or caressing, only to be greeted with, “Oh, aren’t your hands cold?”
A change of life, a new career, was called for and so I have sold my house in Romford and decided to open a gay friendly guest house in Southend-On-Sea. I did consider going to Blackpool but when I looked at just how many there were, I thought there would be no way I could make a living amongst so much competition, and with so many prestigious establishments. The Chandeliers and Grand Piano’s, even curtains better than anything I have, and bed sets and drapes that I once would have been pleased to lay someone out on, plus, the low prices that they are charging ruled it out.
All I can say is that some of the owners there must be very rich and perhaps only doing it for a hobby. I don’t think more than a few can be making enough to pay the electricity bills, let alone give their guests breakfasts as well. Then of course, since Blackpool lost the casino, all I have seemed to read about in the papers is the poverty and deprivation of the indigenous population and all the squalor perpetrated by a lack of will on the part of the local government. Strange you people up north - really friendly and warm people, but you seem to not be going anywhere. It must be your fascination with Pigeons.
Anyway I found this really nice, but a bit run down, guest house that has been closed for the past year. The owners said that now they were getting near to retirement they had lost interest and were hoping to emigrate as soon as possible to Spain, where they had an elderly aunt needing constant care. If I was interested they told me they would knock £18,000 off the asking price - provided I could complete in a fortnight.
Well you don’t get offers like that every day, so I jumped into action. It seemed too good to miss as it was also going with all the stuff needed to get it up and running again almost immediately. Admittedly the furnishings were old and the place could certainly do with a lick of paint, but I reckoned that with a good scrub through and a few minor repairs with my, to date, very under-used tool set (I only ever seemed to use the screwdriver) I could be filling the place with all sorts of gorgeous and available (with luck) guests.
The solicitor has said that I can move in next week if I really don’t want to make some of the searches. I find they will try anything to bump up their bill. Water survey – why? The taps and toilets all work! Electricity survey, the lights go on and off! Gas survey, the cooker works! It hasn’t got central heating, so I am definitely not wasting money on a gas survey. A Structural Survey - what for, just to keep a surveyor in work? The building has been standing for over a hundred years, its not likely to fall down now. Notwithstanding all that, he then went on to suggest a damp survey. These solicitors certainly know how to bump up their charges.
All this is really for the poor people that have to get a mortgage where the building society also sells you a home improvement loan on top of an already crippling mortgage. Fortunately I can afford to pay cash, and although I may have to borrow just a few thousand for the first few months whilst I build up the customers, I don’t have to pay through the nose for services I don’t need or want.
The cheeky beggar even asked if I had contacted the fire brigade. I said that I would leave that until I had a fire! The place has an alarm system with bells and buttons/s all over the place, and the owners said that it had worked perfectly for the past 20 years and provided I did not turn the power off when going on holiday it would even look after the place for me whilst I was away. The solicitor then went on to suggest that I contact the environmental health department. What sort of mug is he taking me for? Contact them and down they will come looking at all my saucepans, and telling me I need a Hoover, or a washing machine, maybe even rubber gloves and a mask to cook a breakfast - although, come to think of it, I do have the last two already at home.
Great! I have packed everything up, and eagerly await next Tuesday when some of my old colleagues are going to move me using a couple of the hearses. It is, after all, only a few personal bits I have and they may even fit in the locker under the coffin platform – that is unless they are going on to another funeral and already have one in the space. In that case my bits will have to go on top, and if they do have one on board they can drop me off before going to the crematorium.
I can’t wait, and will let you know how my moving-in day goes next week. Until then I will quietly muse on the sort of guests I will take. Younger ones I think, definitely fit, and clean as well, but not too prissy. Hopefully lots of singles, so plenty of choice. But how much to charge them? Difficult one that! I don’t want to put off someone I really fancy from coming back again, but then I do have to make a living - and with only 14 bedrooms and a very small bar, I will need to fill those rooms at least four days a week.
I think I will decide how much as they arrive, and I discover what they are into. In the meantime I am going to suss-out the local gay scene. Now if I meet someone I can tell them that I am a Hotelier. That should help my street cred. I may even meet another gay hotelier, although I’m not sure if I want to yet - they might think I am going to take their business. I will just have to assess the situation as it arises.
Darryl. Copyright ©Chaucer Guest House.
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