Chapter Number 14
Last week was great, with a full house all but for one room for the first time. A great learning curve too, to boot. What with that and all the advice from Raymond, who has a guest house a little further along the road, I feel I am getting the hang of it at last.
The computer arrived on Monday and Lance took charge in getting it all set up. What a performance! I was really happy to leave it to him, listening as he wrapped himself in wires, plugging everything in, and occasionally swore in his attempt to get on line (whatever that is). The set up has made my lounge and empire look really professional, especially since the PDQ machine arrived at the end of the week as well.
I tried it out by putting my own credit card in and charging myself £110. Fabulous! It worked perfectly, debiting my personal account and crediting my business account. I tried it a few more times to make sure. What a wonderful wheeze to top up my business account! Now all I need to do is work out how to do refunds.
The first task Lance undertook, once the computer was all set up, was to look at my website that had been built for me. Sure enough, when my web address was put into a search engine, up it came, the first entry on the first page. Wonderful, I thought, until Lance informed me that my one page site was ghastly, and that anyone just typing: “Gay Guest House Southtrend-On-Sea” into Google, as they probably might, resulted in it not really appearing until dozens of pages after the first one.
What a bummer! Anyway he said that he would build me a new site, set up some better meta tags, and do all the submissions himself. Of course I hadn't a clue what he was talking about, so I just left him to get on with it. The bonus is he likes doing it so much, he has already started work on a site for the new gay group we proposed setting up whilst at the pub last time.
On Tuesday night the owner of the rest home almost opposite, Celia, who had popped over only the previous week to ask my friends from the mortuary for a business card, came to see me again. She asked if I could sort out one of her gentlemen residents for her. Apparently he had expired whilst sitting on the loo. She was at pains to explain that her partner, an SRN, was out at the chemists collecting a packet of Senakot, a laxative, for the resident as the liquid paraffin clearly had not been working of late.
Unfortunately, the resident had probably strained much too hard, passing on to the next world before she could return with it.
Happy to oblige, I trundled across the road with Celia to the rest home, and sure enough the resident, quite cold now, was sitting on the loo with his trousers and pants around his ankles, and a strained expression on his face. He was clearly very much a goner. With Celia's help, I managed to get him off and out of the loo and into his bedroom without too much hassle, and without any of the other residents noticing.
But unfortunately it is quite normal with corpses for the bowels to open naturally, and what the poor guy was trying to achieve earlier happened just as we got him near to the bed to flop him down on it. The smell, and the escaping wind from the bowels and lungs from being wrestled around, was appalling. Celia clearly began to feel more than a little nauseous, but it didn't take long for me to strip the guy and clean him and the floor up, leaving her free to frantically roll cigarettes and keep a constant cloud of smoke going in an attempt to mask the smell. She was insistent that I stayed until her partner Sonja, who I had yet to meet, returned from the chemist.
This was interesting, I thought. I had stumbled across my first meeting with a lesbian couple, and they were running a rest home. One, which Celia revealed, where they preferred to take in only gay male clients nearing the end of their days because they were much easier and friendlier to deal with. All the time she was talking, she patiently and with great precision whittled away at a three-metre lump of wood. She explained to me that she was trying to fashion it into a four-inch wedge for her office door.
She did all the maintenance on the premises herself, and the administration, she said, whilst her partner looked after the residents, and the all-male part-time carers, along with seeing to the cooking and cleaning. Clearly Celia had a lot of DIY skills, I discovered. Apart from being just a competent carpenter, she was the sort who would dip screws into pots of grease before screwing them in, just in case they should need to be unscrewed again years later. With her grey hair tied up in a bun, her roll-up cigarette dangling from her lips, and her boiler suit with every conceivable tool hanging from the belt, she did look very much the part. This was certainly no lady to be on the wrong side of.
I had noticed her before, at the roadside, but not thought any more of it when she appeared to be struggling to put a front bumper on her performance car, with bits of engine lying all around her and a huge tool box open on the pavement. Of course, with the emancipation of women, one excepts and is used to seeing them taking on the heavy industrial work that was previously just the male preserve, and why not? At least they make the finished job look pretty, and they tidy up nicely after themselves.
Within the hour Celia’s partner, Sonja returned. She was upset to learn of Albert’s demise whilst she was away shopping, but being a lady of some beauty and obvious class, immediately threw herself into making me welcome. From the kitchen she produced, and offered around, a plate of fairy cakes she had baked earlier. We sat around for a couple of hours whilst the two of them gave me some insights of running a care home for the elderly, explaining how important it was to get the residents out into the fresh air every day, and to not forget to bring them back in again for tea, or if it should start to rain.
Care had to be taken not to mix up their false teeth, which were put into the dishwasher every night, and they definitely could not allow the residents to watch too much mucky television. That upset the night staff who had to fend them off when putting them to bed.
Apparently both of them had been married before. Celia, a defiant non-drinker and a former devout Presbyterian, to a professional Irish accordion player who used to tour the pubs - the marriage not lasting more than a couple of years. Sonja had married in Austria, where she was born, to a former Russian KGB agent and had two children now living in East Germany with children of their own. Both the women loved to visit them at every opportunity, Celia especially as she felt at home being welcomed with open arms by the naval dockyard workers with whom she would spend many a happy hour discussing the mechanics of ships' diesel engines.
Sonja had eventually left her husband, as he regularly practised his interrogation techniques on her. That in itself hadn't been too bad, but being manacled to the wall in the cellar was, and had been the last straw. By a happy coincidence she had met Celia, who happened to be on holiday in Berlin and at the time was foraging amongst the rubble for a memento piece of the Berlin wall whilst it was being demolished. Since then they had not looked back, and were clearly devoted to each other.
Their rest home was very smart and practical, the whole place looking like an Ikea showroom with clean unfussy furniture in light teak. Their office, every bit to compete, included the smartest and most efficient library, with every piece of paper documented, recorded, filed away and accounted for. Not only were they going to pay me for my assistance, but they asked me to contact my former colleagues at the undertakers to handle the arrangements for their resident. So, it was a good result all round - except, of course, for their resident.
The girls, as I now refer to them, were also were great friends with Raymond, and they spoke too of being good friends with another couple of gay guys not far away: Danny and Sidney, who for their great sense of humour and hospitality were affectionately known as the Chuckle Brothers. They had run a small but prestigious guest house for many years, specialising in providing great haute cuisine evening meals. One of them, a former head chef on a cruise liner - the Star of Venice - was now fully immersed in local politics, avidly reading the daily papers cover to cover.
He would entertain his guests and friends for hours with his pronouncements on putting the country to rights. His younger partner lectured part-time at the local university on astrophysics, and could regularly be seen driving about in a classic, lovingly and fully restored, bright pink Reliant Robin - a sort of large pram on wheels.
What an area, I thought! A real gay community encompassing so many former entrepreneurs, and such a myriad of skills, with all of the people helping each other, and I appeared to have been welcomed into it. It would be fantastic to arrange a party for them all.
Well, that was my week - a good one - but what a performance it is now with all this smoking ban lark, isn't it? I’m alright, as since abandoning any idea of a bar I have turned the “Connaught Room” into my private lounge. However I expect my guests will now be throwing cigarette ends down the loos and the sink overflows, only to be left floating in the former and blocking the latter, and that’s apart from the increased risk of fire there may now be from the secret smokers. Never mind, I'm off tonight to check out the pubs and clubs to see what, if any, affect the ban is having on them. One positive thing about everyone standing outside smoking is that it will save any punters having to buy the drinks first before chatting up the rent boys!
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