THIS ( B& B) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - ELLI HOUS­DEN

NOT quite at re­tire­ment age but edg­ing to­wards it, my hus­band and I de­cided re­cently that there must be an eas­ier way for a pair of baby boomers to make a liv­ing, be­sides hang­ing in there ev­ery Mon­day to Fri­day from nine to five.

In fair­ness, I’ve been teach­ing in high schools for 30- odd years and my hus­band David gen­er­ally has been self- em­ployed. So the hours haven’t been all that daunt­ing and the hol­i­days have been a bonus. Maybe we’ve just be­come sick of work­ing with kids and de­mand­ing clients, re­spec­tively.

It was also time to de- feather the nest. The last of the off­spring was sit­ting pretty in a large bed­room at the far end of the house, with en­suite and sep­a­rate en­try. Since leav­ing school he has been free to come and go as he pleases, turn up for fam­ily meals or not, and en­ter­tain his friends qui­etly in his room.

The only lux­u­ries we de­nied him were a bar fridge and a pool ta­ble.

For­tu­nately, it was at the same time our son was flex­ing his feath­ers and brows­ing through brochures on pool ta­bles that my hus­band and I hit upon our mod­est re­tire­ment plan. We would open a lit­tle bed- and- break­fast op­er­a­tion for peo­ple visit­ing Bris­bane. Per­son­alised ser­vice with a min­i­mum of fuss. De­signed for those peo­ple who dis­like the anonymity of ho­tels and pre­fer to stay in a quiet, leafy sub­urb.

And so, No 4 child duly moved out. ‘‘ Thanks for the years, Mum,’’ he called out air­ily, as he and his friends dragged the last of his furniture down the front stairs. I con­fess to shed­ding a tear or two, but the next mo­ment I was por­ing over plans for a kitch­enette and a new sofa in our ‘‘ stu­dio apart­ment’’.

Our first guests, from re­gional Queens­land, moved in for two nights soon af­ter we opened. ‘‘ This is too easy,’’ I re­marked to my hus­band, hav­ing pro­vided a con­ti­nen­tal break­fast in their room and not much else. Our guests loved the room and the leafy sur­rounds. David and I felt con­fi­dent all was well. So we took our­selves out for a self- con­grat­u­la­tory din­ner.

Imag­ine our hor­ror on re­turn­ing home to find a party in full swing in the house be­hind us. All had been quiet for weeks and now we had a house­warm­ing party on our hands. Mu­sic was blar­ing from an open veranda to­wards our gue­stroom, loud enough to shake the leaves from our na­tive ever­greens. We apol­o­gised to our guests the next day and waived the ac­com­mo­da­tion fee. Un­for­tu­nately, al­though they as­sured us on ar­rival that they visit Bris­bane reg­u­larly, we haven’t seen them since.

How­ever, all was not lost. A few days later, an Ira­nian stu­dent came to stay for a week. A well­dressed and po­lite young man, he left the room as im­mac­u­late as he was; bed neatly made, clothes hang­ing in the wardrobe, prayer mat spread out in the di­rec­tion of Mecca ( I guessed), not a wrin­kle in its sur­face. And Ahmed was as quiet as a mouse, un­til I hap­pened to get up for a glass of wa­ter on the sec­ond morn­ing of his stay, about 4am. At first I thought some­one had a ra­dio blar­ing. Then I re­alised Ahmed was say­ing his prayers. But say­ing doesn’t cover it. He was singing at the top of his lungs.

But what was par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing were the lights that were pop­ping on in the bed­rooms of the house op­po­site. Those plain­tive wail­ings were mu­sic to my ears. Sud­denly I rev­elled in the reg­u­lar­ity of Mus­lim prayer. But I made a note to get a quote for dou­ble glaz­ing.

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