#7: Hothead and Breakfast
When the time eventually comes and the stonemason, if they still exist, is chipping out the closing remarks on my gravestone, I can guarantee certain words and phrases that won’t appear. ‘Happy Go Lucky,’ for one, or ‘people person’ for example. But by far the least likely to get an airing would be ‘a man of infinite patience.’ I am, I have to admit, a constantly smoking volcano of umbrage and pettiness. If there were a World Record for speed of knee-jerk reaction I’d be the Usain Bolt of short-temper. In other words, I give off a lot. But for the love of God, what’s going on out there at the moment, is it International Take the Piss Week, or something?
Now, I must point out that there are two things I definitely know are going on here, one, medically I’m not supposed to be over-reacting to anything, my body can no longer tolerate anger or irritation apparently, which is hugely irritating and makes me very angry. Secondly I’m aware that I have a reputation to live up to, the grumpy old man thing. I’ve made a career out of it, even before I was old. I’ve written two best-selling books about it, the second even having the word grump in the title, but there comes a point where it seems the world and everyone in it, is Hell bent on destroying any sliver of zen I may have lurking deep down in my psyche. I am being sorely tested, and I cannot afford to be.
I am not then in tip-top, mid-season, form.
Natalie had been doing some research on my illness and had found an article which basically laid the blame for Chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis Psoriatique Inflammatoire (CRAPI for short) on my own doorstep. A lifetime of anger, and the subsequent anger-induced guilt, produces a physical reaction which causes the body to attack itself. In other words, self-loathing as corporeal threat. Right, look, it’s not that I’m against mumbo-jumbo per se, again I’ve made a career out of it, but the author of the article claims to be neither a doctor nor a psychologist but a Biophysique de la Santé®, and it’s that Trademark that worries me. If you’re so cocksure that you literally create your own medical title, without showing the medical qualifications, and you then add a trademark symbol to that title, then I’m calling it as it is, and that is 100% egotistical arsewash.
That’s the kneejerk reaction anyway. CRAPI has taken a turn for the worse though, and with it my mood, or quite possibly the other way around. One of the first things I fell in love with about France were the little green beer bottles with the twist off caps. Now, I know that’s slightly tragic, hey what about the extensive social provision, you ask? The stunning geography or the fact that people can get fined for mowing their lawn on a Sunday? All valid reasons for loving the place but nope, easily accessed alcohol was the early spot however the arthritis, CRAPI, has turned my right hand into something approaching a claw. I feel like Kafka’s Metamorphosis, and twisty beer caps are now a thing of the past.
Part of the reason for setting up our bed and breakfast was because the travel has become too hard physically to do every week, and a large part of the success of it is the proximity of the local zoo, but also there’s an element of what I call Dollywood about the whole thing. Natalie was convinced early on, that people will want to come and stay at our place because of my low-level of celebrity, especially the books. They could come in their droves, she argued, and gawp at the volatile comedian as he performs every afternoon in a sweary comedy act backed up by three goats, an angry horse and a puppy who eats something dear to Ian’s heart while a performing hen chucks out an egg like she’s a pro in a Bangkok nightclub. My innate truculence would be a kind of B&B version of the 1970s restauranteur Peter Langham, where people turned up to eat but mainly to be insulted by the man. He was also backed by Michael Caine’s money incidentally so I can, effectively, play both roles. Sadly, and despite my fiercest attempts, it’s getting exactly like that now. It’s nearing the end of our first high season of business, and I let go of my tether some considerable time ago. I have decided that my favourite guests so far were the ones who didn’t bother showing up last week, but paid anyway.
But, I have been sorely tested. People booking for a few nights Bed and Breakfast and then use the kitchen and the communal area like it’s a bloody gîte on the sly, or worse, their own house. Also, fobbing their kids off on ‘staff’, me that is, as if I’m in any way capable of child entertainment. One small boy was left in the pool on his own, strictly against house rules, and the kid managed to get a nosebleed. I plucked him from the water and took him back to his parents who were sharing a bottle of wine on the other side of the property, ‘I found him,’ I said, ‘he was in the pool alone.’ I made it clear I wasn’t happy about the situation, but perhaps unfortunately didn’t make it clear that I hadn’t caused the nosebleed myself by punching the kid as a warning to all other lazy parents.
They left the next day.
‘Hey,’ said another parent to his precocious offspring, ‘let’s show Ian how many stones we can pick up from the bottom of the pool!’
I marched over. ‘Hey! I said, ‘Why not stop putting bloody stones in the pool in the first place? Do you have any idea how much that cost to renovate this summer? If you want stones in water, there’s a river ten minutes away and I can tie a big one on to you.’
They left the next day too.
One family decided that the communal salon was a good place for apparently EVERY PIECE OF HOLIDAY FOOTWEAR THEY HAD EVER OWNED. I went in to get some linen, and the place smelled like a charity shop.
‘What the bloody hell is going on in here?’ I asked, possibly in a screamy-shouty way. It went downhill from there. They cleaned up though and were the perfect guests for the remainder of their stay, though they did indeed leave the next day.
Maybe it is me, maybe it is my inherent short-tempered impatience, maybe I’m turning into The Singing Detective, a shrivelling misanthrope, railing with anger and peevishness at the world and footwear misplacement. Maybe, I should open my mind a bit more and employ a Biophysique de la Santé® or maybe just ask someone to twist a few more beer caps off for me.
The ‘Monsieur So British…’ blog carries on from my two best-selling books, ‘À la Mod…’ and ‘C’est Modnifique!’ both published by Summersdale and available here. This blog will also appear as a podcast every fortnight. It’s here on itunes if you’d like a listen. they’re only 15 minutes long…
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