Chapter Number 3
I awoke to the clattering of my alarm clock, and could hardly believe morning had arrived that early. It was pitch black, but then with a tinge of excitement it slowly dawned on me. It was my first full day at the guest house where my bedroom was in the cellar of my new empire, and it was a room without a view.
I scrambled around madly in the darkness in an attempt to the plug the light in, groping everywhere for the wire. My throat felt like a sandpit, and I can remember thinking: the paraffin fire is going to take some getting used to, and I swore I would have the wick turned lower in future.
Bursting for a pee, I leapt out of bed and rushed up the stairs. Crikey! Those stone steps were really cold, and boy did it hurt when I stubbed my toe on the razor sharp edges! Once outside in the yard, and completely naked, I dashed towards the loo, all the time hoping none of the neighbours would spot me. With no door to the loo, I found the severe cold blast up my rear end whilst relieving myself was somewhat kinky - although not exactly pleasurable.
It promoted the decision that in future I would need to routinely first put some clothes on. A few moments later and I was galloping back to my quarters with a paraffin can to refill the heater, and still praying my journey would go unnoticed. By that time I was definitely wide-awake! Hurriedly I dressed and made my bed, remembering to pull the plastic sheet back over the top in case later on I should be tempted to try out the twin tub.
Great! Arriving at the kitchen door it took a few severe yanks before it decided to fly open for me. Once inside the first task was to light all three rings on the cooker to warm the place up. Remembering I still had some of the sterilised milk left by the sellers, I put the kettle on one of the rings before trying out the cornflakes.
Finding them thoroughly revolting, and unsure whether it was the cornflakes or the milk, I removed the kettle and abandoned any idea of breakfast. The orange glow from the rings, although pretty, was producing noticeable fumes which were starting to bring on a headache, so I was forced to turn them off. Never mind! After a couple of cigarettes and a good cough, I was ready to face any challenge.
I wondered if I should make out a shopping list, but in the end decided against it – I needed just about everything! Instead I chose to try out the shower. So outside and down the stairs to my room I went again, sauntering to get my toiletries bag, and then all the way back and up to the first floor.
Damn! Cursing wildly, I trudged back down the stairs and, after hunting for a coin to put in the meter, I climbed back up them again. There’s so much to remember! Ramming the coin in the meter, I turned on the shower and leapt in. Brr! I tried twisting the shower knob back and forth, but to no avail - the jet stream I was expecting turned out to be not much more than a lukewarm old man’s trickle - and halfway through soaping myself even that suddenly turned cold on me.
I swore again, realising the meter had run out already - and I had only brought up one coin. Idiot! Forced to finish off showering in the icy cold dribble, I quickly dried myself and picked my clothes up from off the floor to get dressed.
Blast! Unthinkingly, I had left my trousers on the damp mat in front of the loo! They did seem okay, though, so after a hurried shave – and thanking God for battery razors! - it was out of the house I sprinted to do the shopping.
Sometime later, struggling back with what seemed to be the contents of the local shop packed into eight carrier bags, and frequently having to put them down to change hands, I was almost home when the neighbour came out to enquire if I was the new owner.
Hello, I thought, he is going to moan about the hearse and limo parked outside yesterday. But no, he turned out to be quite polite and amiable, and asked all sorts of questions about what I intended to do with the property. Silly really, I thought it would have been obvious I would run it for what it was - a guest house, what else? – and hopefully better than my predecessors, once I had got going with my paint brush.
But I wasn’t rude in my reply, I remained polite, which may have explained why the guy offered to lend me a dressing gown to wear when running the gauntlet every morning to the loo. Oh dear! I had been spotted after all!
I learned from my neighbour that the couple before me had been trying to sell the property for years, because they were keen to buy a pub in Spain. After losing their drinks licence they had even tried to sell it at auction, but there had been no interest in it. Apparently, after losing his license, my seller had to tell people the bar was for personal use only.
The environmental health officer had paid a visit too – and told them they could not continue doing breakfasts. He didn’t exactly say why. But if I wanted the number, my neighbour knew of a good roofing firm that could put the slates back on my roof. With the number of them that had come down into the road over the past few years, he was surprised there were any actually left up there.
By this time a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach was beginning to emerge. No, I thought, don’t be silly! Every property has its minor faults, and the sellers were really nice people, even making up all the beds before they left and taking the details of a family that had booked in for a week next month.
Wondering the motive behind him telling me all this bad news, I broached the parking situation with my neighbour. Surprisingly he didn’t seem at all bothered. Apparently what had annoyed him and his wife in the past was my seller parking his pigswill lorry outside once the parking restrictions had finished for the evening - and him telling me he was semi-retired!
The smell used to upset his guests. Sometimes, he revealed, instead of going to the farms to dump it he would leave it on the back of the lorry all night, and in the summer the stench became intolerable.
He went on to say that on the whole it was a good street; one where everyone helped each other. Well, that was apart from the two homosexuals who had a guest house at the far end. What went on in there when they had guests, he just couldn’t imagine! Oh dear! I’d better not say too much yet then, I thought. I shall have to wait and find out how the land lies.
Clearly the man hadn’t got to know these guys for himself, but it was good news to know that someone else in the street was gay too and running a hotel. I decided I would need to think up an excuse to bump into them, and sooner rather than later.
Back inside, I turned the vacancy sign around - just in case - and hurriedly put all the shopping away, noting that I needed to buy a new refrigerator before the summer - this one seemed to be gently warming up the contents! At breakneck speed I tidied up the lounge, putting all the flowers in two plastic buckets I had especially bought for them, so releasing the tea and coffee pots in case they should be needed.
My ottoman I dragged to the centre of the room and camouflaged it with a candlewick tablecloth. With some coasters on it and a big ashtray it now looks like a large coffee table and does an excellent job hiding the wobbly floor. The carefully placed leopard skin patterned throws managed to hide the worst of the wear on the brown leather three piece suite, so the lounge, at last, was beginning to look very civilised.
A couple of hours passed whilst I was scrubbing out the kitchen, and putting some drawing pins into the lino to hold down the rips, before the door bell rang. It was a not too salubrious gentleman clasping a carrier bag and asking for a room for two nights. It could be longer, he informed.
Bingo! My first customer! Yes, I said, as I hurriedly invited him into the hall, I did have a room, and then suggested he went up to look at room 5, all the time scrambling to find the room key amongst the bunch left me. He returned to the lounge saying it would do fine, and telling me, if I didn’t mind, that he could pay for it the next morning, after breakfast, when he had been to the Bank. It was just what he was looking for, and at that time he would probably pay for the whole week. Great! I thought. Perhaps he might even stay longer than that. I had some money coming in already!
Early that evening he popped his head around the lounge door and asked if it was okay for him to come in and watch the television. Well, it is the guests’ lounge after all, so I invited him in. Promptly he sat down in the very chair I had been in, and grabbing the remote control he switched the television channel over to the football. So that was the end of me watching Coronation Street, and I hate football!
“Oh,” he eventually asked, “is the bar open?”
“Well, to tell you the truth,” I said, “I have yet to stock up for the season and just have a few bottles of beer left.”
Spotting my quarter bottle of gin and litre of tonic next to the sausage rolls bought that morning for my tea, he said, “Not to worry, this will be fine.”
And during the rest of the football match he steadily consumed all of it – the gin and my sausage rolls! At least he has left me sip of tonic, I thought, when later he got up and explained he was going out till quite late, but was sure that he could return without disturbing me.
“No problem, you come and go as you wish,” I smiled at him, realising I had at least another £16.50 to add to his bill for the food and drink now - and that can’t be bad! – but appreciating I would need to visit the off-licence the following day for more supplies. Perhaps this time some crisps and nuts too - I did want it to look professional, after all.
Following two hours of utter boredom, and suffering the man’s inane chatter interspersed with roars from the football crowd on the television and his occasional bursts of flatulence, I finally had the lounge to myself again. Thank goodness!
The full ashtray, the pile of empty bottles, and the sausage roll wrappers pushed down the side of the settee cushion had destroyed any earlier illusion I may have created, but I decided to leave it until the morrow. Enjoying a few moments of peace, I made a mental note to lock the door to the lounge before retiring to bed.
I didn’t want the room to become trashed further when my guest returned during the night, and I certainly didn’t want him delving around under the tablecloth, perhaps in search of some drink, only to discover the secrets of my ottoman!
Before going to bed I set up a tin of beans, another of tomatoes, an egg, a rasher of bacon, and a packet of cocktail sausages along with two slices of bread on the kitchen table ready for action in the morning.
A frying pan was the one thing I had forgotten to buy that day, and there wasn’t one in the place. Still, no problem - I could scramble his egg, the sausages just boil, and for the slice of bacon, as it would be a waste to put the grill on for just one rasher, I could put the flat iron on a gas ring and when it was really hot press it onto the bacon.
It would probably need doing both sides, and on the draining board for safety, but I would find that out in the morning. Pleasant dreams, I wished myself, whilst thinking how grand it was to have coped so well with my first customer!
Up extra early the next morning, in the dining room I set up a clean serviette and some fresh milk in a jug next to the Tupperware container full of cornflakes. The music was gently drifting through from the radiogram in the lounge, and the wallpaper on the back wall looked great now.
I had used the same trick as with the kitchen lino - put some drawing pins in to hold it down. The toilet flushing somewhere above alerted me that my guest was probably on his way down. Yes, he appeared through the door shortly afterwards, bright and friendly, clasping his carrier bag.
He was going to the laundrette later, he explained, on his way back from the Bank – and I can remember thinking: he could certainly do with a change of clothes!
Breakfast went like a dream – well, I suppose with the exception of the cocktail sausages. They had ended up looking like a load of pygmy willies. Still, what they lacked in quality was made up with quantity: I had cooked him the whole packet.
The bacon came out really well. I had to be really quick with the bread knife to cut it away from the bottom of the iron – and it only wanted the iron held down on it for the count of three - but I did have to do both sides. Anyway, my guest told me it was the best breakfast he had tasted in a long time, and he finished it as he had started - with another bowl of cornflakes.
He suggested I should provide jam. All the posh places had jam. True, I thought, and some marmalade, perhaps sealed in those little packets, and some butter too. I really needed to find out where to get them from. It had made me cringe to see him coughing up over my tub of margarine, whilst knocking six bells out of my table as he tried to loosen some salt or pepper.
Forty-five minutes later, and 8 slices of toast, he cheerily went out the door telling me to expect him back in an hour or so to settle up for the week, and he reminded me not to forget to put the bar bill on his account. So, when he had not returned by lunchtime, I was getting rather concerned for my very first guest.
Had he had an accident? Got lost? Who would know? I kept looking out of the window to see if I might spot him, maybe in his search for the right hotel. At one point I even wondered: should I telephone the hospital?
By three in the afternoon, I thought I had better go upstairs and check his room to see if there were any contact numbers. Perhaps his mobile number was there, or that of a relative. Gingerly, I opened the door, and was immediately hit by the smell of alcohol, old socks and urine.
The waste bin was full to overflowing with empty cider bottles and cigarette butts, with ash all around it on the carpet. It was only then that it suddenly dawned on me: the bloody rotten bastard was not coming back! There was nothing but the putrid smell of him left remaining in the room. Pulling back the bed covers, my heart sank and I groaned aloud. The bed was soaking wet - right through to the mattress!
It wasn’t such a good day after all.
Darryl. Copyright ©Chaucer Guest House.
Click to return to Chaucer Guest House home page.