OUR Airbnb guest is holding a voluble late-night conversation. He is pushing 70, has led and still leads an interesting life, and has had a drink or two.
Now he has a mug of tea and is chatting to my wife. I am sitting at the dining table with my laptop. We’ve just been to see Pride and Prejudice at York Theatre Royal and I am doing my best to write a review for the Yorkshire Post before bedtime.
After a sleep not long enough to guard against the ill effects of not sleeping enough, it is my birthday and we are all downstairs again. I chat with our guest, who loves the toast made from my sourdough and orders a second round.
He’s an interesting man who has done a lot. We felt guilty about saying he couldn’t arrive until 10.30pm and awkward that we both had to be out of the house by not much after eight. As it happens, he came in a cheerful bustle and this morning he is whirling off to catch the 8.30am train to King’s Cross, so everything works out.
There is no time to unwrap my presents, as I am off to Leeds in my new this-and-that life, to talk to students about stories and structure. I put my phone on silent for the lecture, but not my mouth.
Back home, a chef calls but I miss him as the phone’s still on silent. For a session next week on food writing, I want to ask how it feels to be reviewed by a sniffy critic (the same sniffy critic who won’t talk to me).
Two guests are due to arrive this evening, an Airbnb visitor and a musician we are putting up as a favour. I go off for birthday badminton and return to find that the Chinese guest has arrived, shivering in the cold, and say hello to her on the landing outside her room.
Presents are opened, a meal is eaten and two glasses of school-night white wine are enjoyed as a birthday treat. The musician is still not here when I go up to bed.
Now it is morning again. The Polish musician, dead on his feet when he arrived, is still asleep upstairs. At least I think he’s Polish: I ask wife and she isn’t sure. Anyway, he’s here to play in a concert at York Minster and another musician is coming tonight, to go into the Airbnb bed soon to be vacated by our Chinese guest. My wife sings in a choir and the musicians are in the ‘band’.
The Chinese woman seemed shy last night but now she is chatting away over breakfast, telling me that she is the middle child and that both her sisters are married, putting her under parental pressure to do the same. She doesn’t seem keen on the idea. She tells me that she lives in an apartment and her parents come to live with her, before moving on to stay with first one of her sisters, and then the other.
The possibly Polish man is still asleep and the definitely Chinese woman says she’d like to have a look around the garden. “In China only rich people can afford a garden,” she says.
First, she wants to do her washing up. I say there is no need, but she insists.
When she leaves, I’ll keep an ear out for the visiting musician, while getting ready for my other job at the Press Association, and trying again to speak to the chef. He’s willing but we keep missing each other. Oh, and I mustn’t forget to change the bed for the other musician.
I used to spend too long hanging around on this ledge, worrying and wondering, planning my brilliant future at an age when even an optimist must admit that the future is shorter than what has gone before.
Now I fit in a bit of worrying and wondering, while working four days a week, two here, two there, plus bits of freelancing. Oh, and the Airbnb.
Our Chinese guest returns from her wander. “I hope one day I have a garden,” she says. I stand to chat but she says, “You go ahead,” motioning to my laptop.
So that’s what I do; what I always do.