The ups and downs of letting strangers through the door…

I RETURN from my run as an overnight guest is preparing to leave. My wife is showing him out and there is a bit of an atmosphere in the hall. She mutters as she shuts the door. Her attempts at being friendly while she served breakfast had fallen on stony ground. No eye contact and no conversation at all.

Opening up your house to strangers is a gamble and you get all sorts through the door. Most are friendly and make for interesting company, while some can be odd.

Sometimes you spot the difficult customers in the emails you exchange through Airbnb. One recent guest was a little prickly as he asked about the house. On arrival he just muttered his name on the doorstep without adding hello or anything. He stayed a couple of nights so I persisted and found out quite a bit about him; unusually, he asked nothing about me at all.

He was quite a presumptuous guest, wanting generous use of the facilities, whereas many guests merely stay in their room, after an introductory chat.

As a host you have a post a review of your guest online, and they then do the same for you. In a mood to think the best of people, I wrote up something fairly generous about this guest. A few days later, he had his say, and his comments were eccentric, badly spelled and a little rude, observing that we were clearly ‘newbies’ at Airbnb, although he did sort of wish us luck and said something nice about the garden.

I did wonder if I had been too kind in my comments.

As for the guest who just left, I have no idea what to say about him: He came, he went and in the interim he left little impression other than of unfriendliness. It’s certainly tempting.

It’s been a busy week and the two guests beforehand had been lovely, a young Chinese man who liked the house and said he felt as if he was in his own home; and a man of the theatre who was hardly here during his two-day stay, but was very friendly and charming when we did see him. He parked his big van outside with a whole show in the back, something to do with CBeebies.

Mostly having people to stay is a positive experience, with no horror stories as such, just one or two odd types or people who expect a lot for their £25 a night. What they all get is a clean, tidy and pleasant room in a friendly home; our home where we lay our hats and put up our feet; where we watch television and listen to music; where we garden and read the newspaper; and where one of us makes bread and sometimes drinks a bit too much wine at the weekends.

People passing through get to share in a little of that. Or they do if they are friendly, as most are. They even get to eat the bread in the morning.

It’s a transaction too, of course: money for a room and breakfast, with conversation included if desired.  And, yes, we are doing this in extremis, needing whatever extra money we can earn.

We have a guest arriving on Tuesday who is staying for a week, as long a stay as we’ve yet had. The vibrations from the emails so far seem like good ones. I am sure she’ll be one of the friendly ones, as most are. One of the nicest guests even befriended me on Facebook and is a reader of this blog (hello Maggie).

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