The room was clearly advertised as having a double bed. But Leila from San Francisco said she would be coming with her friend, Rachel, and nowhere in the world is Rachel a man’s name.
So I made up a second room just in case. But it stayed untouched as the two women cheerfully arranged their belongings in the one room.
Then Leila produced her trumpet. And why not? It’s small, light and easy to travel with. But she was also a beginner … luckily we have a shed at the other end of the property and we were able to make ourselves comfortable there, well out of earshot.
On the other hand, Leila did leave me a stack of the latest American magazines. And she and Rachel were good fun.
Leila also has a holiday let. She told me she rented her rooms to Google engineers who would happily pay holiday prices year round to live in San Francisco rather than industrial-park Silicon Valley. Demand was so high that, for a lot of the year, she slept outside in her van.
Such are the dreams of the holiday landlord. But because it’s so easy to do, everybody is doing it. Competition is going up and prices are going down – which is great for the guests – so is it worth doing it yourself?
Before you get started, be aware you will need much more than the holiday website’s own carefully curated photos of a stylish, smiling couple arriving at a perfect laneway hideaway. Here are the other vital elements – the ones that website won’t tell you about.
You better love cleaning
I vacuumed the mattresses this morning. That was after hanging out of the second-storey windows for two hours, scrubbing the aluminium frames.
It’s not that I’m fussy, it’s because there are three types of clean: everyday clean, cleaning-lady clean and professional clean. The last one is what you will be doing.
You better be obsessive
I also ironed the quilt covers, while they were on the beds. Coffee cup handles are always turned to the right. Hand towels are folded length-wise. Actually, no one notices. But they do notice when things aren’t right.
You’ve got to love shopping
In my own world, towels, bed linen and non-stick frypans pretty much last forever. But then I don’t use a towel to take off my make-up or grab the nearest knife when I want to lift an egg.
Sometimes I’m lucky to get a single use out of a non-stick pan. So I’ve invested in stainless steel, the towels are a heavily-pattered navy and the sheets come in midnight, steel and chestnut. And then people sit on them to carefully apply some body lotion.
People will be late
The guys from Alaska said they’d be on the 8.30pm train. But there’s no train then, so I waited for the next two trains and then sat in a nearby bar to kill time.
At 11.15pm, the phone rang and the lead Alaskan admitted that he and his friends had been huddling in the dark, cold station for the past hour while he looked for my number. Then I took them shopping at midnight so they would have something for breakfast.
You’ll feel very lucky
You’ll get used to people admiring your home. In return, you’ll hear their stories from San Francisco and India and Norway. And if that Norwegian med student who also plays violin in the Oslo Symphony Orchestra and wants to give you a concert, so much the better.
And then …
So you think you’ve got it sorted. You’ve organised a cleaner, the guests will arrive by car (no pick-ups required) and there is key-less entry (no waiting around).
Nothing can go wrong. Right? For me, there was the police car Incident. It was just a black and white toy car, sitting on the dining room table, its little headlights unseeing eyes of silent condemnation.
The just-departed guests hadn’t had any kids. Nor had the four bookings before that. Why hadn’t the cleaning lady found the car? Why hadn’t I found it? Where had it been hiding all this time?
It was kind of kitsch, so I placed it under a lamp as a novelty decoration. It lasted as long as the cleaner took to notice it before blithely flinging it in her plastic garbage bag.
Deirdre Smith has been a holiday accommodation host for 10 years. She’s also a frequent user of hosted accommodation, in Serbia, Italy and Hong Kong – among others – and counts sleeping on the floor of a hippie flat in Jerusalem during Donald Trump’s visit to Israel as a highlight. She never inspects her host’s rubbish bins.