THE Frenchman is in the shower and I am at the laptop on the breakfast table. He’s from Nantes and there is an accidental reciprocity about that. Last year I was in Nantes and a man from there is now over here with us for a few days.
He arrived despite a bit of difficulty with the bus driver. “I think it was the accent,” he said when he got here.
This man is visiting York as a tourist but I don’t know much else about him. You discover very little about some Airbnb guests, while others tell you their life story over toast and tea.
Some people arrive on holiday, others are pushed here by an emergency or last-minute arrangements. We’ve had two of those lately. One man had come to York on holiday with his wife and daughter, staying in a proper B&B at first. The wife had complained of feeling unwell in one morning, which wasn’t like her, and ended up in hospital with an appendix on the point of bursting. N drove his daughter home, then came back here, not knowing if his wife would be OK to leave hospital. He left in the morning and we didn’t see him again, so she must have been.
The other ‘emergency’ visitor was a vet covering a last-minute shift in the York area. It was badminton night so we told him to arrive before or after a certain time. Eventually he turned up at 10.30pm, dirty, tired and ready for the shower. I was sweaty, tired and ready for the shower after getting bad tempered at badminton.
“I’ve been dealing with a prolapsed cow,” the vet said.
“I’ve been dealing with an uncooperative shuttlecock,” I could have replied but didn’t.
The young vet was from the Dales, a proper Yorkshireman. Next morning, he left before seven without the breakfast that’s included in the price (missing something free – not such a proper Yorkshireman). He was off to deal with more poorly livestock.
The vet was replaced by a young woman from Indonesia, who stayed for three nights. We chatted over breakfast on the first morning, but after that she kept to herself. My wife didn’t even meet her. When she left on the Saturday morning, I was up in the study, tapping away. Hearing the door, I dashed downstairs in my pyjamas and caught her just as she scuttled off.
That seemed strange, and I wondered if she hadn’t enjoyed her stay. Later she sent an email saying what a lovely time she’d had and telling me to get in touch if ever I am in Bangkok.
That young woman was replaced by the eccentric cyclist. He came to York for a gathering of some sort. He’d cycled from Swindon but gave up at Derby thanks to the wind, putting his bicycle on the train.
He left at 6am on the Sunday, saying that we shouldn’t get up on his account. But I was awake so came down at 5.45am and attempted to chat – it was early and he was a few words short of talkative. Perhaps it was the prospect of all those miles. He was intending to cycle 200 miles home on a bike with a fixed-wheel – in other words, a bike without gears. Some of us only get up hills thanks to those gears, and he didn’t have any. He was on the road by 6am and calculated that if he kept pedalling he should be home around midnight.
The Frenchman has just come downstairs. He tells me that he once read a book about York. “When I was 18 or 16,” he says. “And now 30 years later, here I am.”
He works in IT and we chat about that, then we chat about French politics. He voted for Emmanuel Macron in the second round, although not with a glad heart. Yesterday morning I missed my brother the professor. He was on the radio again, this time on Broadcasting House, talking about French politics as usual. So, we can both do that, although my talking takes place over toast, while he addresses the nation, or those parts awake at that time on a Sunday morning.