Saturday, 5 November 2011

Making ends meet - a little bit of This ‘n’ That

Writing is a fantastic way to spend your days. What could be better than having free reign to write about whatever you want? That wacky idea you had in the bath? Boom – there it is – brought to life.

I sit at my lap top with a blank page and then just see what comes out of my fingers. It’s ridiculously satisfying to create something from nothing – I just plug in my cerebrum (the creative part of my brain), make friends with Wikipedia and Google and off we go. 

The office (I'm probably still in my pyjamas).

 It feels just a little bit self indulgent!

The downside however – and I know that my new career is still embryonic – is being broke. It will be a happy day indeed when someone says ‘Splendid work, have some cash – go and buy yourself something nice!’

So until I accumulate the wealth of JK Rowling, to keep myself ticking over financially (which doesn’t include sponging off the ‘hubster’), I’ve been diversifying my income streams. I keep telling myself that George Clooney waited tables for years before going grey and getting discovered. 

Hmmm – perhaps I just need to stop dying my hair – perhaps that’s the key to being discovered? 

Nah – realistically that’s not going to happen!

Anyway – so I’ve been diversifying in order to keep my head above water and stretch the ‘impoverished author’ phase of my life out for as long as possible. It all adds to my back story for when I get interviewed by Graham Norton!

Over the summer I dog walked. 

Lunch time walks along the canal – great for keeping active and for thinking and getting your brain in order. 

Ahoy there.

Sauntering along in the sunshine carrying a bag of dog poo, waving at old men in Arran sweaters piloting narrow boats along The Bridgewater, is a fine way to make a few quid. Then writing an entertaining work of fiction for the owner to prove that we’ve actually been out and that I’ve not just sat on the sofa and watched ‘Cash in the Attic’ for an hour:

“Rosie two poos had a lovely walk today by the canal. I only lost her once when she tried to ride on a swan ..... etc etc.”

I’ve also cleaned for manicures! 

So I’m a girl who likes to have nice nails! At the moment, I just can’t justify the expense. But I will clean (including the cooker) in return for a session with the Vietnamese king of ‘Perfect Nails’!

Perfect nails required for typing top notch text.
I’m brewing moonshine in plastic milk cartons in my kitchen!

Well, it’s more like sloe gin and blackberry vodka. It’s coming along nicely and will make smashing (and cheap) Christmas presents.

Coming along nicely - ready in time for Christmas.

But my latest entrepreneurial sortie is into hospitality. I have become a service industry!

When we were in Boston, we just needed a bed for the night before picking up the car and heading north. The youth hostel was miles away and single sex only dorms (not ideal for the first night of our honeymoon), and hotels were around £200 a pop, which seemed a total waste when we knew we would be out exploring all day. While desperately googling alternatives I happened across a company called AirBnB where people rent out their spare rooms to tourists at a fraction of the cost. It worked like a dream. We stayed in a great location in a room which was absolutely fine for sleeping and leaving bags, cost £60 – and out host greeted us with beer! Bonus!

We have a massive spare room, which spends most of its time looking perfect and empty. So I’ve signed us up – and this weekend we have our first guest – a doctor from Iran.

The site operates through guest and host reviews. Because we’d not had any guests until this weekend, we didn’t have any reviews, so people have been looking, but not booking. A good review from our first guest is therefore really important.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of watching ‘The Curse of Trip Advisor’ on the telly on Thursday evening and it put the willies up me good and proper. The programme followed guests who stayed in hotels and B&B’s and ate in restaurants, who subsequently left a review on Trip Advisor. It then showed the devastating impact of their comments on the hoteliers and proprietors – with no real opportunity for redress.

While the establishments they chose for their review case studies were – hmmm – eclectic, it highlighted how some people were taking the whole review thing a bit too seriously.

I’ve used Trip Advisor in the past, and while you can pick out those reviewers that are just arses and complain about things that wouldn’t even cross my mind (e.g. the toilet roll didn’t match the duvet), if several people are saying the same thing, then I stay clear.

I was horrified how a little bit of power can make some people feel so important. It was almost like they got erotically aroused by water left in the kettle.

With my first guest imminent it was the worst possible thing to have watched. Particularly as any review won’t just be a judgement on my business, it will be judging my home ...... and me!

As I started to get the house ready yesterday, I could hear my guests review. 

“The house was a complete mess – there was scum on the dish drainer.”

I bleached the dish drainer.

“Attention to detail was poor – the cat flap was disgusting.”

I scrubbed the cat flap.

“The location was dreadful and I got lost.”

I walked to the bus stop in the rain and wrote down all the bus times and ferreted out my Manchester A-Z.

“The house felt unwelcoming.”

I made proper coffee, sprayed everything resembling fabric with Fabreze, lit scented candles and put a ‘Manchester from the air’ on the bed side table.

“There was nothing for breakfast.”

I went to Sainsbury’s and bought cinnamon and raisin bagels, orange juice and muesli.

“The bathroom was scruffy and lacking in products.”

I filled a cup cake stand with an assorted collection of ‘products’ raided from my bottom drawer which is full of the remnants of Christmas gift boxes past and items ‘liberated’ from boutique hotels. And then I crowned it with a toilet roll – the end of which I folded into a triangle.

It could make all the difference!

“Bloody hell” came Tris' voice from the bathroom.

“And don’t forget to put the seat down after you!” I replied, which was a stupid thing to say because I’ve never known him not to. But then I wasn’t exactly being rational.

In the mean time, the voice of reason was speaking in my head too. “It’s £30 a night – it’s hardly The Ritz.”

When our guest saw his room, he declared it to be 5-star. The relief was ridiculously out of proportion to the situation.

So it’s so far so good. To date he’s only managed to break the towel rail, but he’s very polite, done all his washing up and has made firm friends with the local kebab house. I am feeling quietly optimistic about his review.

It does feel a bit like prostituting our house, but unusual times call for unusual measures – and I’m hoping that it will bring us a steady stream of interesting and unusual characters from around the world, which will not only be a source of inspiration for writing ventures to come, but for foreign holidays. I’ve heard Iran is particularly nice in the spring!

1 comment:

  1. Heard some good stuff about AirBnB from Karlo over at Papa Podcast - I even have the app on my ipad! He said the first review is the crucial one because up to that point nobody knows if you're a serial killer. Good luck.

    PS Having stayed over with Alison and Tris I can attest to their non-serial-killer-ness.