Chapter Number 4
Having put the soiled mattress in the yard, hoping it would dry out overnight, I did at last get around to trying out my twin tub. After first remembering to check the meat tray was underneath and empty, it was in with the soiled linen.
The lights dimmed a bit whilst it laboriously rumbled away at the wash, noisily and seemingly forever, but the time did finally arrive when I had to heave the sheets out of the wash part into the spinner, only to discover the sound of that had all the beauty of an express train screeching round a bend at full speed.
The laundry completed, I eventually retired to my bed. But I was unable to sleep that night. My mind kept wandering back to what the neighbour had told me about my sellers, the damp coming in through the top ceilings, and the amount of work that was required to bring the place up to a reasonable standard.
All that, coupled with the realisation that my very first guest had been one of life’s wasters, ensured I had very little rest. Suddenly I felt quite alone.
Hey ho! Morning arrived, it was another day, and I felt I needed a complete break away from the place, even if it was just for a couple of hours, so that I could put everything into some kind of perspective and decide what I intended to do about it all.
I had to come up with a plan of action, think about what to tackle first, and there was just so much to think about.
I walked to the pier, and deep in thought I slowly perambulated it to the end. After staring into the water for what seemed ages, and with no solutions to my problems springing to mind, I turned and immediately regretted the distance I had come. Because at this time of the year the train only runs at weekends I had no choice other than to walk all the way back.
I groaned, and felt everything was against me. On the painstaking return journey I passed various workmen in their tight jeans painting or repairing things, but overshadowed as I was with all my troubles I could not fully appreciate the visions of them stretching and bending in front of me as they manhandled their tools and materials into awkward places. My thoughts, annoyingly, would not leave the guest house, the problems, and the sinking of my ardour.
It was on leaving the pier, and still going over in my mind some of the things my neighbour had mentioned, that an idea finally came to me. I was reliving the conversation, the man’s description of the street, and it was when he got to the bit about: “the two homosexuals who had a guest house at the far end” that a sudden moment of clarity washed over me.
I decided the best course of action might be to visit these two gay guys my neighbour referred to as homosexuals. They, if anyone, should be able to give me a few tips, along with some contacts for running the business - and they might also be very adorable!
Reaching the far end of my road, I scanned the buildings for any telltale signs. Although I could not be certain, I felt the guest house with a huge statue of David in the window that was heavily curtained with a rose wine coloured velour, complete with ample swags and tails all cascading from a top pelmet, was likely to be the one I was looking for.
Ringing the doorbell, it was eventually answered by a portly middle-aged man with an apron around his waist. He looked every part like he had just been reluctantly prized away from some fabulous gastronomic creation. Wiping the flour from his forehead, forearms and hands with a tea-towel, he smiled broadly and calling me “luvvy” said through his teeth, almost without moving his lips, that they did not do one night stays.
He was ready to swing the leaded light front door to a close again, when I quickly explained that I had just moved into the guest house further down the road and that my name was Darryl. I hoped they did not mind it being a gay friendly establishment.
“Oh, really, luvvy!” he said excitedly, and then called out at the top of his voice, “Julian, Julian.”
“Yes, Tristan,” came the reply. “If it’s the egg man, tell him we don’t want any this week.”
“It’s not!” Tristan retorted. “It’s the new man who moved in down the road. You know, where we saw the funeral taking place the day before yesterday. Near the rest home. He’s a friend of Dorothy’s.”
“Well invite him in then, so we can get to know him,” came the reply. “Don’t stand there at the door calling out like a fishwife for the whole street to hear!”
Tristan beckoned me in, and with another “luvvy” invited me to take off my shoes before guiding me into a rather beautiful lounge, as he explained they had just had the carpets cleaned. Glistening glass tables, vases of flowers (still not as many as me, I thought), fine ornaments on highly polished furniture, a chandelier of huge dimensions that one slightly ducked under to cross the room, and a carpet that enveloped one’s feet in the pile greeted me. Pictures of famous film stars and naked young men adorned the white satin printed wallpaper - all signed, of course – and I wondered: had they really stayed there?
I carefully sat down on the edge of an opulent white leather sofa, opposite a wall-mounted fifty-inch plasma television screen and a futuristic stand containing a huge selection of porn, all numbered and carefully labelled, with the titles typed and laminated. Tucking myself up to the armrest to gain some purchase, so avoiding falling back into the sofa and being eaten, as it threatened to do, I looked around the rest of the room. At the end was a bar that went from one side of the room to the other.
An ornate gold coloured shutter had been pulled halfway down. Behind was a huge selection of spirits, four pumps for beers, and all of it cleverly lit with down lights and sparkling led lighting that reflected in the mirrored back wall. A huge vase containing condoms of every description and a box of poppers were neatly displayed at the end of the bar, and along the front stood a neat row of chrome bar stools with white brocade cushions. By the window at the other end of the room was a harp.
Tristan did later explain that he used to play it, but that it gave him bruises and chaffing to the insides of his thighs so now he just uses it to slice lemons for the bar. Wow! I thought. These guys really do know what it is all about!
Tristan left the room to prepare some drinks, and to fetch Twinkie, their little baby who just happened to be a pedigree Shih Tzu, as Julian glided in amidst his own private cloud of very expensive after shave. “Hello, what’s that cologne your wearing? It smells so manly,” he breathed at me, and then continued on before I could answer. “So you’re gay are you? And you’re opening up your guest house as gay friendly.
Well, you are brave darling, but you do look so butch, so you might get away with it! We just couldn’t abide straights ourselves, let alone having fish around the place as well!” he gushed. And then with a giggle added, “We could certainly do with a few more gays in Southtrend – it’s strictly Naffsville at the moment!”
I sat looking up at the middle-aged man, almost agog as he appeared to hold court, and I can remember thinking: I really must get the smell of embalming fluid out of my clothes. But then mused that if it smelled manly when mixed with my Brute aftershave, it might not be so bad.
The silver tray of three splendid lead crystal glasses accompanying an equally prestigious decanter of gin that Tristan reappeared with was only marred by the two-litre plastic bottle of Tesco tonic water. “Right out of Schweppes tonic at the moment - bloody brewery let us down.” he quickly apologised, as a fur ball followed him into the room. And then with a very camp lilt he said, “Come, Twinkie, and meet the nice new man, but don’t you dare get up on the furniture.”
There were no short measures, the drink flowed easily, and the three of us just seemed to settle down to a good old chinwag. They promised to take me to a good cash and carry on the trading estate, when they next went, where I could buy all the catering bits and bobs I might need at sensible prices. I thanked them for being so kind, and then let my eyes shoot around the room again, this time in search of an ashtray.
There were none, and I resisted asking for one in case they should grimace and go into fits of coughing and spluttering. So, instead of smoking, I quaffed my way through the scrumptious cheese savouries they had thoughtfully provided, occasionally allowing one to fall – accidentally, of course – to satisfy the fur ball sat at my feet staring up at me, pathetically whimpering for more than the sparse attention I had chosen allocate.
“We’ve been living here for six years now, dear,” Tristan revealed. “We seen them all come and go, haven’t we, petal?” he turned to his partner at the appropriate moment. “It was an absolute nightmare when we started up.”
I smiled sympathetically at Tristan, whilst trying to avert my eyes from the undesirable fascination they had found with his khaki shorts. Loose cut, and far too minimal, from time to time as the man moved around on his chair they would reveal just a glimpse of a testicle. Now I know it’s all about whatever floats your boat, but this portly, ginger moustached guy with a balding pate was doing absolutely nothing at all for me in that way.
It was an embarrassment. However convincing my eyes of that fact was an impossible task, and I began wishing it had been some young Adonis sat opposite me in those shorts. One with a huge packed lunch staring me in the face, where then there would have been much excitement in just waiting for the next slight shift in his position.
“What has really made a difference for us are the nudist art weekends we introduced two years ago,” Tristan revealed.
“Just using pencils, of course,” piped up Julian. “We cant be doing with all that paint and stuff in here; not with our furniture. But it was fortunate that Tristan used to give adult art lessons at a night school before we moved here to open ‘The Hotel’, and he had all his own equipment – easels, art paper, and all that kind of stuff.”
I had already noted that whenever either of them said: ‘The Hotel’, and they had several times by now, it was always the loudest word in the sentence. It was conveyed with some pride and superiority, and deservedly so! I asked whether they ever displayed any of the work, or did the guests always take their sketches home with them?
“Oh, you are a wag!” Julian exclaimed. “They cant usually draw at all, luvvy! Often the only thing likely to be fondled around here is another guest’s pencil!” There was a huge outburst of laughter from us all before he explained, “It works really well. Our older guests all sit down naked in front of their easels, fully aware they may be called upon to pose for the rest of the group at any time, but as it happens seldom are.
Then some of the gorgeous young sweeties who just love to show off, pose for us. They get into whatever positions the group ask for, and are sometimes assisted by one of the artists. There are times when either Tristan or myself have to pull them back to their seats; some of the old queens can be a bit too frisky at times! Anyway, it is always a great evening.
The bar does really well what with the older guys buying the younger posers copious amounts of drink, and they in turn buying the condoms and poppers. Next week there will even be some Viagra substitutes that Tristan has tracked down. We shall have to keep an eye on them, though - we don’t want any fatal heart attacks to find in the morning!” Another round of laughter erupted.
“Would you like a huge box of part-used Camay soaps?” Julian suddenly enquired, wiping the laughter tears from his eyes. “It seems such a shame to waste them.”
“Well, yes,” I said, “thank you. But why don’t you use them yourself?”
“Darling, we have the best hotel in the street. All our rooms are superior designer en-suite and come with Broadband Internet access, direct dial telephones, all Sky channels, a DVD player, and a top of the range television with a twenty-one inch wall-mounted plasma screen. Not only do we provide tea, coffee and hot chocolate on the hospitality trays, there is a selection of soups and biscuits too. We provide every one of our guests with two bath towels and two hand towels daily, along with a dressing gown and a pair of Chinese slippers to size. When you do all that, sweetie, you just do not put used soap in the bathrooms!”
Feeling duly told, and just a little embarrassed, I thanked them again for the soap and said it would be very useful. Maybe I could grate some of it up for the twin-tub, I thought, or use it for the washing up.
I was beginning to wonder how on Earth they afforded all the grandeur, but was far too hesitant to ask, when it was explained to me. Despite being so busy, Tristan had a very lucrative part-time job, three days a week, as a graphic designer up in London, and although on those days it was hell for Julian to cope on his own, it was worthwhile to them.
After leaving his office, Tristan would spend hours visiting as many pubs and clubs as he could handing out cards to get more clients interested in coming to Southtrend, and especially to ‘The Hotel’. Frequently it would be the early hours of the morning before he arrived home, so tired then that sometimes he would simply collapse onto the bed and fall asleep before getting undressed.
What fantastic guys, I thought. And even more so when they offered to send any guests they weren’t sure of to me. They knew I would be desperate for the business, and that I might possibly cope with such people better than them, being as I was at the lower end of the market, and the road. Once I had my place sorted, they promised to introduce me to several other gay guest house and hotel owners in Southtrend.
Apparently many of them regularly met on Sundays in a local pub. Julian even promised to look through the cellar and the shed they had on their rear patio area for any old furniture and hotel items they no longer used, as it could well improve the quality of my premises until I could afford to buy new. It’s a shame I only have a yard whereas they a patio area, I thought as I thanked them again. They were such lovely people.
The hours just seemed to fly by, and too soon my new found fabulous friends were having to show me to the door, but not before making me promise to come back in a few days for another chat and to collect anything they might have found that I could have. Perhaps I might even like to attend one of their art evenings, they suggested, grinning. I wouldn’t have to take my clothes off if I preferred not to on the first visit.
I smiled, briefly reminding Tristan that he appeared to be in the middle of some cooking when I called and apologising for interrupting it. He told me not to worry, it was just a few cakes he bakes for a café on the front every morning. They love his cakes, but he could buy some at Tesco in the morning and take the wrappers off - they would never know the difference!
Once all the theatre of the farewells was over, a ritual that had to include their Twinkie, I began the short walk back to my hovel feeling strangely elated. Perhaps I will have a chance to make it work, after all, I thought.
Darryl. Copyright ©Chaucer Guest House.
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