Com­edy of er­rors

As he awaits his first B&B guests, Ian Moore strug­gles with first-night nerves

Living France - - Contents -

I’ve been a suc­cess­ful standup co­me­dian for a long time, so long in fact, that I rarely get ner­vous any­more. There’s al­ways adrenalin – at least there should be – but nerves are largely a thing of the past.

For a brief pe­riod, I was the warm-up man for the Jonathan Ross TV show, a gig I was wholly un­suited for, so much so that I would be per­ma­nently on the verge of be­ing phys­i­cally sick be­fore record­ing. The ac­tor Jim Car­rey saw me strug­gling once be­fore a show and promised to step in for me at any point if needed, that’s how ill I looked – and he did too.

But is there a Jim Car­rey equiv­a­lent in the cham­bres d’hôtes/ bed and break­fast world? Be­cause I’ve got first- night nerves.

We’ve worked through the sum­mer. The paint­ing and dec­o­rat­ing in sear­ing July heat only nar­rowly beat­ing the end­less trawl­ing of bro­cantes for strong­est test of pa­tience award. Se­ri­ously, bro­cantes though? I know most of us have a ro­man­tic no­tion of dis­cov­er­ing hid­den gems, a quick Love­joy-short­cut to riches, but they’re ut­terly use­less if you’re look­ing for a cost­ef­fec­tive way of dec­o­rat­ing shabby-chic hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion. Un­less of course you’re in­tent on tak­ing the niche route in short-term va­cances rental adorn­ment and in­tend on kit­ting your place out solely in grubby in­fant cloth­ing, bro­ken salad bowls and Johnny Hal­ly­day al­bum cov­ers.

The ren­o­va­tion work fin­ished more or less on time, the build­ing team and the plumb­ing/elec­tric­ity team were, by the end, so dis­trust­ful of each other they had to work on al­ter­nate days to avoid ‘in­ci­dent’. And, apart from a build-up of gas in the newly-in­stalled fosse toutes eaux (sep­tic tank) that, had it blown, may have wiped out most of con­ti­nen­tal Europe, it’s all gone rel­a­tively smoothly.

So, the thing is up, the place is beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated, the web­site ( la­pau­se­valde­ is run­ning smoothly and con­nected to ev­ery in­ter­net travel provider you can think of. So now, it’s up to me.

In a way of course, it’s just an­other gig. Only I don’t have to make any­one laugh, I just have to make sure that their bed­ding is comfy and clean and that their break­fast is just how they like it. That should be eas­ier, shouldn’t it? Less nerve-wrack­ing? Nope. The beauty of stand-up com­edy, from a per­former’s per­spec­tive, is that I can say pre­cisely what I want, when I want to. I have the ul­ti­mate free­dom to re­spond in any way I choose to any­thing that is, some­times lit­er­ally, thrown at me. But now I’m en­ter­ing into a world of diplo­macy, tact and – gulp – cus­tomer ser­vice. The one thing in my favour with cus­tomer ser­vice, of course, is that I’m in France. It’s not that cus­tomer ser­vice doesn’t ex­ist here, it’s just that it’s like wine made out­side of the French border, its ex­is­tence is tol­er­ated but “it’s not for us, thank you very much”. So should I go full-on na­tive and es­chew the prin­ci­ple of the ‘cus­tomer is al­ways right’? Be­have as a part stand-up comic, part French waiter like a cross between Basil Fawlty and Eric Can­tona? It sounds like a fun role to play, but it also sounds like I’d lose cus­tom pretty quickly too. No. This is a new ven­ture and a new me. You can’t go treat­ing Trip Ad­vi­sor as though it’s an au­di­ence heckle, or po­lite guest sug­ges­tions as though you’ve just had Statler and Wal­dorf stay­ing. One must rise above these things, keep the barbed com­ments for the stage; bite your lip if you have to, smile and be the per­fect host. That was the plan any­way. “Hello, is that La Pause – Val de Loire? I’ve looked at your web­site, but I’d ac­tu­ally like to ig­nore your rules and pric­ing struc­ture, have six adults stay in the one room for €90 and all have break­fast in­cluded. What do you say?” Well, you can take the boy off the stage...

Ian Moore is a co­me­dian, writer, chut­ney-maker and mod who lives with his fam­ily in the Loire Val­ley. His lat­est book is C’est Mod­nifique!, (£8.99, Sum­mers­dale Pub­lish­ers). ian­­fo­la­pau­se­valde­

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