“You’ve not written about Airbnb for a while,” a friend says. That is true, so here goes.
Bookings are down a bit lately. There is a Chinese guest with us now and a Californian due next weekend. I am typing at the dining table and can hear our visitor moving around upstairs.
Here is how this guest arrives at our house. I am miles away at one of my part-time jobs. No one is in. Our visitor has been told not to arrive until after 6.30pm. Settling in at work, I check the emails on my phone and see a message: “Hi, Julian. I already arrived. Is your house number 88?”
Well, no it isn’t and you shouldn’t be there now anyway. I panic for a second, then send an email explaining the situation. By the time I arrive home at 10pm, she is here and everything seems to be all right.
When we meet, she doesn’t mention the early arrival or the emails. Like many Chinese guests, she is quiet and polite, a little nervous at first, and seems serious. After a while, she warms up and chats a lot, and is friendly. She apologises for her ‘bad’ English (which is good) and I don’t bother apologising for my Chinese (which is non-existent).
We have many Chinese guests and most of them say they love our house. It’s a medium-sized semi on three floors, the top one being a quirky attic room where we sleep. The guest room is at the front on the middle floor. An ordinary sort of house, got up the way we like it, or so far as finances allow.
Chinese guests sometimes take photographs of the house and garden to show their friends. This weekend’s visitor says that she shares an apartment of four rooms with three other people. “Your house is very big,” she says.
The funny thing is I always wanted to live in a big house, a properly big house, although there is no need. This house is big enough and sometimes it takes a visiting Chinese woman to point out what should be obvious.
Our guest is here to learn English and sit an exam. She is a teacher who has come all that way to improve herself, leaving her eight-year-old daughter at home. Today she heads to Edinburgh before flying home to China in a week or so.
I am not sure what I learn from having guests. Maybe it’s just that wherever people come from, their lives are not that different to yours. I also learn that people are people, and other clichés.
I learn that we are all human together, even that strange man who said that he felt safe knowing that David Cameron was running the country. Well, he isn’t now, Sir. He’s buggered off with a shrug, leaving the country in a mess so he can earn £100,000 for giving one speech, or so I read the other day.
If I had untold millions, I’d pay that much not to hear a speech by David Cameron, but there you go.
I wonder whether it will be safe to ask the Californian girl about Donald Trump? My guess is that she would have been for Hillary, but you never know
Airbnb is often criticised these days for the way it can upset the property market in cities. That’s because too many people have cashed in and started buying up whole blocks of flats to let out to guests.
We operate at the simple sharing end of the market, letting out one room to visitors, including the one who is in the kitchen now, talking to my wife, and making her own breakfast. Normally I do breakfast.
“Before I come here I never eat cheese,” our guest is saying.Now my wife is showing a picture on her phone of my cousin’s son’s new baby. He is married to a Chinese woman and they live in Shanghai. Same human race, different lives. Time now for toast with marmalade, for me if not this guest.