Seemed like such a good idea…
Retire to a gorgeous victorian seaside town in Pembrokeshire, on the dramatic west coast of Wales. Build your dream house, with an added apartment for guests and additional income. What could go wrong?
Well, I’ve loved Judith Barrow’s stories about their holiday let ever since reading about the vicar and his wife who asked to rent their one-bedroom apartment, only to show up with thirteen other people. Since I’m going to be travelling for several weeks, I’ve asked Judith to be the first of my guest bloggers. And what could be more fun to get us started than more of her cautionary tales on the joys of running a holiday let?
Please grab a cup of coffee, and join Judith and Husband down in Tenby.
The Holiday Let. Fluffy Slippers Optional
–Guest post by Judith Barrow
Well, yes it is worth it – we love it, despite the unexpected. Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.
They arrived separately.
He, aged around fifty, immaculate in a navy business suit, pristine white shirt, his tie, also navy, casually loosened in a contrived way. His smile also seemed contrived, I thought. (Or is that me now; looking back?) It was exactly ten o’clock when he parked his car on the drive.
‘Mark Smith,’ he said, holding out his hand. Firm, self- assured. I let him into the apartment. He looked around, nodded approval. His wife would arrive later, he told me; she had a business meeting.
She arrived in the afternoon in a pale blue Smart car. I only caught a glimpse of her; she’d parked the car alongside his and, mobile pressed close to her ear, weekend case in her other hand, she whizzed past our kitchen window towards the apartment door, a blur of pale blue. I heard a few murmurs of greeting. Her voice soft with a slight musical Irish hint.
‘They’ve arrived then.’ It was a statement. Husband came in from the garden. ‘D’you think they’ll want a few of these?’ He held out tomatoes and cucumbers; we’d had a glut.
‘Don’t know.’ I said, ‘ask them when you see them.’ We didn’t see them all week. Not a sign. If they went out we didn’t notice, the cars hadn’t moved as far as I could see. Glorious sunshine and the spectacular Pembrokeshire coastline didn’t tempt them outside, apparently.
We usually meet our visitors at least once if they’re staying a week; often they are wandering around the garden, the men usually gravitating to the greenhouses to chat with Husband; to compare vegetables, to bemoan the weather: too hot, too cold. The women to sit and have a chat about where to go, what to see.
But the onus is on them; we wait to see; some talk, some just wave if they see Hubby or me, some ignore the fact that we’re around. It’s fine.
Mr Smith and his wife obviously wanted privacy.
Except she wasn’t his wife.
On the Thursday, two days before they were due to leave I had a phone call.
‘Hi, it’s Hayley Smith, Mark’s wife. He’s staying with you? His secretary says he’s having meetings around Pembrokeshire (for obvious reasons I’ve changed the exact conversation). ‘Only I’ve finished work for the week and I thought I’d surprise him for our wedding anniversary tomorrow. Take advantage of this lovely weather.’
‘Hello?’ The woman spoke again. ‘If you could give me directions…?’
‘Er, yes, hold on please.’ I put the phone down and ran outside. ‘His wife’s on the phone,’ I hissed at Hubby, jerking my head towards the apartment door.
He looked puzzled. ‘Why?’ We both looked at the windows of the apartment, closed all week, blinds shut.
I threw my hands in the air; the situation needed a dramatic gesture, and ran to bang on the door.
Nothing. No one. Not a sound. Zilch. I jiggled from one foot to the other for ages, conscious of the woman, the actual wife, waiting in the telephone in the house. My mind running overtime.. We hadn’t seen them since they arrived; they could be ill, needing help. Dead!
I peered through the letterbox, shouted. ‘Mr Smith?’ I wasn’t going to shout, Mrs Smith, was I?
I turned to Husband. ‘Get the spare keys.’
The door opened. It was the woman. Young; around twenty. And naked as the day she was born.
I glanced at Husband; he was staring, mouth open. I wafted him away.
‘Mr Smith’s wife is on the phone,’ I said to the woman.
She closed the door. It opened again. Mr Smith. In a pale pink translucent nightdress and negligee; the kind women used to wear in the seventies. And fluffy slippers!
‘My wife?’ he said, his voice strangely hoarse, a look of panic on his face.
And well it might be I thought. I’d seen some things since we’d started the holiday let. But …
I heard a choking sound. Husband, head lowered, seemed to be concentrating hard on deadheading the roses.
‘She’s on the phone…’ I gestured towards the house.
He seemed unable to move.
That did it; he leapt from the doorway, pushed past me and ran – or shuffled, I should say – those slippers weren’t conducive to a run, into our house.
I stayed outside, hustled Husband towards the far end of the garden.
The upshot of all this was that they were both gone in an hour.
I’ll gloss over the state of the apartment. Except to say that the man who collects the re-cycling gave us some funny looks at the amount of wine bottles we put out that week. And that Husband took a lot of ‘rubbish’ to the tip because I wasn’t having certain items in my dustbin!
It was a month later that we recognised ‘Mark Smith’ on the television, same self-assured smile and with eager reporters jostling around him.
And then there was the Football Man …
And the Hippies …
And the couple with the heavily pregnant wife – who wasn’t – when the three of them left. Worked it out?
Oh, and the couple who insisted Husband was growing his vegetables all wrong and decided to give us a surprise. Husband went only slightly crimson that time.
And the …
And the …
All stories for another time …
Judith’s books make the perfect holiday read!Click on cover for preview and buy links!
Contact Links for Judith Barrow
Holiday Let: http://saddleworth-house.co.uk/