THIS ( B& B) LIFE
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.