The days are all beginning to blur into each other. It’s Southend so it’s Saturday (and I only know that because I’ve bought the Weekend Guardian. Twice. But that’s another story, involving missing sections, found sections, great expense and lots of swearing).
The Travelodge was great last night, once Sally Satnav had stopped repeatedly telling me to make a U-turn, even as I drove past the Travelodge sign and into the car park. It was clean, warm and spacious. Perfect.
Unlike the Airbnb I now find myself in.
After a day striding up and down Southend prom with cameras and rucksack, only stopping for (yet more) fish and chips I was ready to relax. I’d had another little trip down memory lane when I spotted the cockle sheds that we used to visit when we came to see my grandma (the one born in Yarmouth, moved to London and ended up in Leigh on Sea). She would buy a bag of the smallest shrimps you ever did see and we’d have them for tea with brown bread and butter. When she passed away and the funeral was over, thirteen members of her family, all dressed in black, walked along the length of the seafront, reminiscing on her life. It moved me so much I wrote a poem about it.
But back to today. Following the (not so trusty) Satnav I found my journey leading me along a road which became increasingly undesirable (in reverse Estate Agent jargon). When the Satnav told me I’d reached my destination I pulled up and stared, open mouthed, at the depressing house that faced me. Dirty, run down and extremely unappealing.
After a few minutes hesitation I drove off, intending to stop along the road, book a Travelodge at great expense (thanking my lucky stars for Kickstarter) then let Julie (the Airbnb host) know that I’d had a sudden emergency and wouldn’t be staying after all. The first hurdle was that the local Travelodge was fully booked. The second hurdle was that there wasn’t another one for about fifty miles – and even if it wasn’t full it was going to cost me four times Julie’s rate. I clicked onto the Airbnb site and read Julie’s reviews. They all said how lovely Julie was. Nobody mentioned the run down house. I looked at her picture and decided she didn’t look like a murderer, an alcoholic or a drug addict. I turned the car round and reluctantly drove back.
Julie was very friendly, perfectly welcoming – and quite eccentric. The house was filthy. Her two dogs followed me up the stairs, sniffing my behind as though deciding whether I was a suitable guest. Julie showed me into a small, very pink bedroom, with a strange assortment of pictures on the wall. She told me it had been her daughter’s room but, by a strange coincidence, her daughter now lives in Blackpool with her dad. Looking round the room I could see why.
I am laid on the bed, looking up at James Bond, gun cocked. Behind me, Marilyn Monroe poses and pouts. To my right is Audrey Hepburn whose clock hands have read 6.05 for the past hour and a half. There is an iron, a toaster, a kettle and an empty beer fridge. And a purple TV which doesn’t work and looks like something from the 80s. I am in a time warp.
I’m beginning to wonder whether I need to review my standards. I’m really not a fussy person. I hate housework, I’m pretty untidy and I always fear our house reflects this. Having seen two of these Airbnbs now that fall well below even my low standards I do wonder whether they need stricter checks. My house is beginning to seem like a palace.
I was going to venture out for food but I really don’t fancy any more dog sniffing, and Julie has a man friend round on a Saturday night for curry and a film. As the way to the front door is through the sitting room I don’t want to disturb them. So I shall lay back on my creased pink duvet, read one of my two Guardians and eat the banana and two apples that now constitute my evening meal.
Tomorrow, Margate, Ramsgate and another Airbnb…..