Hanging up the ‘gone travelling’ sign… and stories of two more Airbnb guests

EIGHT pairs of underpants for seven days – that’s what the average man packs, apparently.

According to a story in today’s Daily Mirror, that suitcase will also contain two swimsuits, two bottles of sun cream, two pairs of trainers or shoes, one jumper, a pair of sunglasses and a hat. Oh, and one in ten holidaymakers take their own teabags with them.

I am not packing much as the suitcase is small and my stay in France fairly short. And fairly shorts, too – with two pairs going into that small suitcase.

That extra pair of pants suggests the average British man is a cautious sort, although this early in the morning we won’t delve deeper into why that additional pair might be needed. Such speculation might prove unseemly.

My suitcase will contain teabags. These are not included because I cannot cope without my usual tea – and anyway loose-leaf Darjeeling tea isn’t a practical choice for travelling – but because my brother asked us all to bring teabags with us when we visit him in Brittany.

So the teabags are in, but this blog is not. For the first time since I shuffled out on to this ledge in June 2015, I am putting up the Gone Travelling sign and suspending this service for a few days due to the wrong sort of holiday.

On other short breaks, I have taken my ledge with me, but this time the laptop is staying at home. I may suffer withdrawal symptoms and it is possible I will be spotted sitting in the sunshine ‘typing’ at an imaginary keyboard, so attached have I become to my Toshiba.

We have put up the closed sign on the Airbnb for two weeks to have a break from that, too. So here are two stories from our last two guests.

Guest one was a 50-year-old French woman who was on a short holiday before attending a church convention in Harrogate this week. She arrived while I was out interviewing someone in Malton, even though I had emailed her to say I would be out until around 6pm. Luckily our daughter was in and showed this guest to the room and gave her the key. Our visitor then lost this key and spent 20 minutes looking for it.

In the morning, I had a long breakfast chat with our guest, who was lovely and friendly, although she did want to tell me about when Jesus came into her life. Like a good honest atheist who is too polite to mention the fact, I nodded and waited for the subject to pass, which it did.

That was the first time anyone had talked about religion, although not the first guest to have been attending such a conference. Our other religious guest was interesting but on the prickly side. He wrote us a rather condescending review on the Airbnb site, but there you go. If he ever wishes to come again, we may well hang up the closed sign.

Guest number two was a 31-year-old Chinese man whose arrival was delayed in a dramatic way. He’d said he would be here by 11pm, so I sat up and waited. By 12.45am I gave up and went to bed, leaving a note on the door and taking the house phone up to the bedroom.

The phone rang at 6.15am and out guest was outside. He’d had an accident on his way here and had been in a police station until 4am. The poor man was white-faced and exhausted. He went to bed for two hours, then surfaced for a day in York.

At breakfast yesterday we had a long chat. These morning conversations with guests are one of the highlights of my life as an accidental B&B host. And this guest was lovely and interesting, and he shared many thoughts about life, in particular about the attitudes of Chinese people towards the world – and the world towards Chinese people.

He was interested in history and culture and meeting people, less interested in shopping and seeing places flash by, which is how he said many Chinese tourists operated. Oddly, this is how visiting Americans behaved in the past, ‘doing’ London, York and Edinburgh in a few days, then hopping off to ‘do’ other European highlights. Our guest said he preferred to explore places properly.

Many Chinese people never leave their country, he said, and I said this was the same for Americans, most of whom still don’t have a passport. Interestingly, the same was true of China – “Many Chinese people don’t have passports,” he said.

After a tour of the garden, he was gone. And now I am going to find my passport and see what I else can squeeze into that tiny suitcase.

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