Confessions of a late-arriving host… and Father’s Day thoughts…

TODAY is Father’s Day but it is fair to say Friday wasn’t.

Anyone who saw me sprinting through York early in the evening might have wondered what I was up to. Here is what I was up to. We had a guest arriving at 7pm, my wife was out singing and I was working away in Darlington. On the other two days everything ran smoothly and I arrived home on the dot of seven.

And in that spirit a man brushed by the wind of foolish hope imagines everything will be all right again.

So why was I sprinting through the streets like a maniac? It all started with the trains from Darlington running 20 minutes or so late.

I’d already had time to kill in Darlington before my ticket would allow me on a train. About two-and-a-half hours. A generous allocation for that town. Still, I was at least presented with a sight that still makes me chuckle: a takeaway shop called DFC. Or to give its full name: Darlo Fried Chicken.

After an hour at the station, I’d tired of my book and wanted motion. Then the trains stopped arriving. By the time the train pulled into York, it was nearly 7pm. The traffic was snarled up, the buses had disappeared into thick drizzled air, about 50 people were queuing for taxis, and the little mini-cab stall round the corner had a wait of at least 20 minutes.

So I ran.

This is a route I have run many times before. But never while wearing a heavy Tweed jacket, shirt, tie, work trousers and clunky Doc Martens, and clutching a shoulder bag. I kept glancing round for a bus but none came.

I arrived home to find a young Chinese woman sitting on her suitcase outside the house. She’d just sent me an email which I read later. This said: “Hello, is there anyone home?”

Sometimes I do wonder. But I think she was talking about the house and not the inside of my head.

For complicated reasons possibly connected to idiocy, I can only reply to Airbnb emails on my laptop and not my phone. So I couldn’t warn our guest of my late arrival. Or warn her that any minute now a red-faced, sweaty bald man was heading round the corner to shower her with profuse apologies.

Throwing off my jacket, and saying ‘sorry’ a few more times, I showed her to the room. The cat ran in and jumped on the bed. The guest screamed. “I don’t like cats,” she said.

So Lucy was shooed out of the room and another apology issued (although we do warn on the website that we have a feline squatter).

While still overheated, I showed the guest round the garden. She seemed pleasant and told me she worked in advertising. At the end of the garden we came across the veg patch. “Ah, strawberries,” she said. “I love strawberries.” So I picked the first one of the season and gave it to her.

In the balance of things, one home-grown strawberry probably doesn’t atone for one late-arriving host. No idea what sort of review this guest will give us, but if it’s a bad one the finger of blame can jab in two directions: at me and at my foolish optimism, the “oh-it’ll-be-all-right”-ism that has led us astray for a year now,

But today is Father’s Day and my lovely three arranged a family treat of a surprise breakfast at Café No 8 in Gillygate, York. And very nice it was too. Forewarned that I needed to make myself available by 10am, I went for a quick run first. But I left the Tweed jacket at home.


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