Change for the bet­ter

Jan Ether­ing­ton spent all sum­mer three sheets to the wind

EADT Suffolk - - Behind The Beach Huts -

Guess why I’m glad it’s Oc­to­ber. Crunchy leaves? Misty morn­ings? Log fires and thick soups? No, what I re­ally love is that I no longer have at least three sets of sheets to wash each week.

Since we moved to the Suf­folk sea­side, five years ago, I’ve be­come a sea­side land­lady – re­luc­tant and un­paid. I seem to be run­ning a B&B (and of­ten L and D as well) for my fam­ily and friends. So swift is the turnover, that the ‘mem­ory’ mat­tress re­tains the body shape of the pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants. Is there a word for ha­tred of laun­dry? It has given me enor­mous ad­mi­ra­tion for any­one who runs a real B&B. So hur­rah for Oc­to­ber, when schools are back, days are shorter and the con­stant stream of guests is eas­ing to a trickle. Phew!

We had over 50 vis­i­tors in our first year. They came in ones, twos, fours and on one oc­ca­sion, sixes. That was my Tai Chi class, who spent their time on the beach, re­turn­ing ‘the tiger to the moun­tain’. Not easy in flat­land Suf­folk. I am con­stantly sur­prised by the foibles and fads of those I thought I knew well. It starts from the mo­ment I open the door. Their first ques­tion is never ‘How are you?’ but ‘What’s your wifi code?’

I could leave them all to it but I Make An Ef­fort. I do all the ‘ex­tras’ – bathrobes, Suf­folk Mag­a­zine by the bed, posh shower gel – strug­gling to please ev­ery­body, the ve­g­ans, coeli­acs, lac­tose/ gluten in­tol­er­ant, and just plain picky and de­mand­ing. Break­fast is a mine­field. The end­less de­mands! A jug of milk. ‘Is it al­mond milk?’ A bowl of mixed, fresh fruit. ‘I need the blue­ber­ries sep­a­rated from the mango.’ ‘Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to make all the bed­rooms en suite?’ sighed my friend, the ar­chi­tect, who’s al­ler­gic to shar­ing any­thing. My hus­band says I’m only marginally more wel­com­ing than the Black­pool land­lady who used to shoo him and his par­ents out onto the street at 8am and not al­low them back til teatime. It in­spired me to draw up some guid­ance for re­luc­tant land­ladies – but also some rules for the per­fect guest. Stick to these and it might mean I can en­joy my friends’ com­pany, with­out turn­ing into Sy­bil Fawlty!

RE­LUC­TANT LAND­LADIES

Don’t make it too fab­u­lous. You’re not get­ting paid, so let them do things for them­selves. Say 'There’s the toaster, help your­self to break­fast.' Make it clear you are not spend­ing ev­ery day with them. If they ask ‘What’s the plan for to­day?’ say ‘Well, I’m go­ing to Waitrose. What are you up to?’ Leave maps/leaflets by the bed.

You don’t have to go to bed at the same time. You’re tired, they want to chat/open an­other bot­tle/watch a film. Just say ‘Let the dog out and switch off the lights. `Night!' Long stay­ers should be given tasks. Five days plus and you can rea­son­ably sug­gest they cut the grass/take the dog out/go food shop­ping/put the Hoover round. Re­lax. If they want a lie-in, go out, leave a note. Don’t stand about, fum­ing.

THE PER­FECT GUEST . . .

Brings a gift, but seasiders have had it with beach hut coat hooks and light­house can­dles. Bring wine. Pinot Noir, if you’re ask­ing.

Comes pre­pared, has read up on the area, has plans made. You’re wel­come back, any­time, if you ut­ter these words: ‘We’re off for a long walk. See you about 6 and then we’ll take you out to din­ner.’

Tells you what you want to know be­fore they ar­rive – what time they get up, when they’re leav­ing, whether they have any al­ler­gies/food in­tol­er­ances or a dog pho­bia.

Knows it’s not a hotel – of­fers to wash up/cook one night and at least once, take their hosts out for a lovely, ex­pen­sive din­ner.

Brings sheets. And af­ter read­ing this, they prob­a­bly will – if they ever come back.

‘My hus­band says I’m only marginally more wel­com­ing than the Black­pool land­lady who used to shoo him and his par­ents out onto the street at 8am and not al­low them back til teatime’

Above: Peace at last . . .

Jan Ether­ing­ton

Jour­nal­ist and com­edy writer of ra­dio and TV se­ries, in­clud­ing Sec­ond Thoughts, Faith In The Fu­ture, Next of Kin and Duck Pa­trol. Re­cently moved to a vil­lage some­where in Suf­folk . . .

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