Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Joys Of The Untrained House Guest

The Bed & Breakfast season is well underway. Due to the exceptionally fine weather of recent weeks, we've received an unprecedented number of bookings for the time of year.
People are booking last minute weekend breaks, and escaping to the Countryside to relax, unwind, and enjoy rural Dorset in all her sunny glory.
Thus far, all of the guests have been delightful; friendly, easy going, and gratifyingly complimentary about everything from the home-made marmalade to the imposing ingle-nook fireplace (which we lovingly restored to it's former glory, having discovered it by accident one Saturday afternoon - but that's another story.)
I have always enjoyed running the Bed & Breakfast. I like meeting new people, i love cooking, and the money is good. Obviously, opening your home to total strangers is not without its drawbacks. Guests are rather like Forrest Gump's Proverbial Box Of Chocolates - you never know what (or who) you're going to get next.
Every B & B Owner can recount at least one grim story, in which their faith in human nature is tested to a greater or lesser degree. It is deeply dismaying to realise that you are sharing your home with someone whose personality or habits you find repellent, particularly if their undesirability becomes apparent within the first five minutes of a seven day booking.
I'm a pretty personable character, but smiling sweetly and exchanging pleasantries at breakfast with a man who has been wiping his bottom on your White Company hand towels, is no mean feat.
Finding a urine soaked mattress when you make the bed in the morning, will lower even the chirpiest of spirits. Exuding good will and bonhomie requires enormous effort, particularly when you suspect that the wetters ( a fit, healthy couple in their mid twenties), are not afflicted with weak bladders. The absence of incontinence pads lends weight to your burgeoning theory. Your suspicions confirmed beyond doubt by the book on the bed side table. "SEX GAMES - all the things you've heard about but never dared to try."
That's why they've come away for the weekend, you think sourly as you peel off the sodden sheet. God forbid they saturate their own bed.
Jasper came in for breakfast as i was about to stuff the offending sheet into the washing machine.
"Why are you pulling that face?" he asked.
"Look at it! Covered in wee!" i replied furiously.
"What do you mean Wee? How can you tell?"
"Because it looks like the bloody Turin shroud!" i hissed.
"Poor people, they're probably really embarrassed."
"It wasn't an accident!" i spluttered.
He looked non-plussed.
"They were weeing on each other."
"Why would they want to do that?" he frowned.
"Oh dear Lord, do i have to spell it out? They were being kinky, you know, 'Water Sports'." I felt myself blushing.
The penny finally dropped.
"Oh, i see."
"Oh, i see? Is that all you've got to say about it?"
"What do you want me to say?" he shrugged. "There's a waterproof mattress protector on the bed, so it's not that bad. At least they're having fun."
I gawped at him.
Jasper's philosophical stoicism is one of his many admirable qualities. Whilst i have always appreciated the fact that he remains gloriously unperturbed by my propensity to over-dramatize a situation. i couldn't help but feel that his laissez - faire attitude about the pee related sexual proclivities of a pair of strangers, under our roof was a little unreasonable, particularly when i had to clean up after them. I had expected a small but discernible degree of disapproval. I was disappointed.
I was about to argue my point when there was a knock at the door, followed by the nasal Brummy tones of the peeing pair.
"Hello! Anyone in?"
I bristled. Jasper wagged a stern finger at me.
"Behave yourself and don't be rude." he said, before opening the door.
The gruesome twosome stood there grinning as though they hadn't a care in the world, clutching a wicker hamper, rolled up towels, and carrier bags stuffed with swimming trunks, shorts and snorkels.
"Fort we'd head to the beach." chirped the male. Black chest hair sprouted rampantly from beneath his wife beater vest and his pudgy arms glistened with Tanning Oil.
'Go on then, off you f***.' i thought, glaring at his crotch.
"Don't suppose you know what the weather forecast is?" the female enquired breezily.
"Mainly cloudy with some golden showers" i replied before i could stop myself.
"Ow No!" she squawked. "I hate getting wet!"
I snorted derisively.
"It's not going to rain, that was yesterday. Sunny all day today." said Jasper hastily, stepping them out into the hall way and closing the door behind him."
"That was very naughty of you." he said, shaking his head when he returned a few minutes later.
"Well honestly! Why can't we just have normal people come to stay?" i asked despairingly.
"We've had lots of people who aren't weird."
"Not for ages. Remember the family that stayed last month?
"Ah, yes. The Etheringtons. Not exactly The Waltons were they?" he said grimly.

Mrs Etherington had sounded perfectly normal when she had telephoned. We exchanged pleasantries about the weather and she told me how much she was looking forward to a family holiday.
Having booked a family room for one night, for herself, her Husband and their two boys, aged 8 and 14, she enquired whether our bantams were in a secure run. My initial assumption that she was concerned that they were protected from the Fox.
"No, no, i'm not worried about the Fox. It's our Ryan. He has some issues you see." she said vaguely.
"Don't worry, lots of children are frightened of poultry. They can't get out." I told her reassuringly.
"It's not whether they can get out; it's whether RYAN can get IN." she explained.
"I'm sorry Mrs Etherington, i don't understand."
"Ryan loves animals, absolutely adores them, but he doesn't know his own strength. He picks them up to cuddle them, and, well, sometimes they just, don't survive."
There was a pause, while i digested the information.
"But there haven't been any incidents for ages." she said hastily. "There was an unfortuneate mis-hap on a school trip to Farmer Palmers, involving a rabbit, but that was over six months ago. He's getting the help he needs now."
A shiver ran down my spine, and i was filled with foreboding. I fought hard to suppress a macabre image in my minds eye, of the headless bodies of my beloved bantams lay strewn about their pen, twitching and spasming in their death throes. The infant murderer looks on with a half smile, while Ave Satani plays in the back ground - a gruesome farm yard parody of The Omen.
"Are you still there? Mrs Miller? Hello."
"Yes, yes, I'm still here." i muttered, cursing my notoriously over-active imagination. I would just have to keep a close eye on the little Anti-Christ. We could shut the dogs and cats in the stables during his stay. The chickens enjoyed a maximum security des res, complete with electric perimeter fence, so they were safe from his murderous intentions, although i couldn't help wistfully thinking how much i'd like to see him try to get in.... I could plug the battery circuit into the mains. That would cure his issues; give him an electric shock therapy he wouldn't forget in a while....
A titter escaped.
"Did i say something amusing?" Mrs Etherington asked testily.
"Not at all." i said smoothly. "See you next week. Goodbye."

They arrived the following Wednesday afternoon, two hours earlier than arranged.
I came back from town to find their car outside the house; an ancient Vauxhall Cavalier, the colour of brackish pee, relieved in places by archipelagoes of rust. I surreptitiously peered in the windows. ( It's surprising what you can deduce about guests from their cars interior.) The first thing i noticed was the plethora of anti-animal cruelty stickers festooning the back window.
BAN HUNTING! screamed one. PETA. AGAINST FUR! raged another.
Not the most auspicious start, i thought gloomily, given the snarling foxes head on their living room wall, and Granny's ancient mink coat hanging on the hall stand.
The back seat was strewn with grubby, snot smeared muslin squares, empty crisp packets, and a handful of Mister Men books with the pages savagely ripped out and torn into pieces. Most ominous of all , was the decapitated Peppa Pig, whose severed head had been rammed face down into the splay legged crotch of a mutilated, shorn-haired Barbie Doll.
On the dash board was a tatty paperback - "Aggression and anti-social behaviour in children; a Parents Guide".

Despite the heat of the day, they were waiting for me in the living room. Although they could have occupied the space for no longer than half an hour, the smell that their presence had generated, hit me like a sledgehammer. A witches brew of sour milk, sweaty socks, farts and B.O.
Mrs Etherington was sitting huddled like a little mouse on one end of the sofa. She wore a dirndl pinafore dress, a greying pie frilled blouse and a pair of battered old espadrilles, through which protruded her grubby toes.
Mr Etherington was standing by the window, texting furiously. He glanced up briefly as i came in, muttered a vague hello, and resumed jabbing away at his mobile.
Mrs Etherington scowled furiously at his bald spot. "You'll have to excuse HIM." she spat.
"He's a little pre-occupied."
"No rest for the wicked!" i said in a jolly voice.
She looked at me with a pitying expression, and shook her head.
Suddenly, a bright ginger head popped up from behind the sofa, wielding a replica gun. Black eyes glinted evilly from beneath a neanderthally low brow, as he aimed his weapon at my chest.
"BANG BANG!!" he screamed.
I smiled brightly at him. "Oooh, you shot me!"
"What have i told you about swearing ?" his Mother said wearily, without turning round.
Ryan made an obscene one fingered gesture at me behind his Mother's back.
"Did you enjoy the cake?" i asked, edging back behind the door in an attempt to block him from my peripheral vision.
"No, it was gross." cackled the odious little twerp.
"That's enough Ryan." murmured mr Etherington, without looking up.
"Enjoy your tea. Supper's at Seven. " i told them, bolting back to the kitchen, where i shakily poured myself the first of several glasses of wine.

By 7.30pm, they were sitting round the dining room table. Or rather, Mr and Mrs Etherington were sitting a the table whilst their off-spring chased each other round it screaming. The cat appeared in the window. Vile Ryan made a lunge for it's tail and it disappeared into the shrubbery with a yowl of dismay. Mrs Etherington sat scowling at her husband who was gazing vacantly out of the window, both seemingly oblivious to their rampaging children. When i turned around, Caleb was gouging a chunk out of the beautiful antique side board, which had belonged to Jasper's Great Grandmother.
Resisting the urge to bash his head against the wall, i politely asked him to stop, whereupon he burst into noisy sobs. Mrs Etherington gave me an accusing look, and started unbuttoning her shirt.
"Come to Mummy sweetheart." she said in a grotesque little girl voice.
Instantly, the snivelling stopped; his eyes lit up with glee as he rushed over. It all happened so quickly. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a gigantic nipple and a droopy blue veined tit, before the little brat's snot smeared mouth closed over it and he began to suck.
There was a wail of jealous protest from Ryan.
"Come on then, you too." sighed Mrs Etherington.
Out came the other tit, which Ryan dropped to his knees and latched onto as though his life depended on it.
I watched revolted, fascinated, appalled, whilst the pair of them gulped away at their mother with evident relish. Unable to listen to the obscene slurping noises any longer, i went and stood outside the back door. Jasper was taking his overalls off.
"What's the matter? You look weird." he said.
"Don't go in there." i whispered , shaking my head.
He ignored my warning and walked in. I heard the squawk of dismay as his eyes alighted on the surreal tableau. He U-Turned abruptly and emerged looking distressed.

"I can't get the image out of my head." he said with a shudder when we were lying in bed later that night.
"Me neither. Gross wasn't it?"
"One of those kids has got a moustache. It must have tickled her nipple."
"Don't think about it. You'll have nightmares."

At 3am i awoke with a raging thirst and went downstairs to get a glass of water. I paused outside the Kitchen door, listening. Someone was crying. I pushed the door open. Mrs Etherington was sitting at the kitchen table wearing a pink nylon nightie and weeping over a tumbler of Vodka. Her face was puffy and blotchy, her eyes like carbuncles. The tears were coursing down her cheeks and had formed two little puddles on the kitchen table.
"Are you alright?" i asked, idiotically.
She stared at me uncomprehendingly and took an enormous gulp of vodka, followed by a deep breath.
"Should have seen it coming." she said bitterly, shaking her head.
She was shivering like a whippet. I handed her a blanket and sat down opposite her.
"All the signs were there. I just didn't want to see them.." she continued.
"The late nights, the hushed phone conversations, constant texting, taking his mobile to the bathroom with him."
I was starting to get the picture. If i wasn't mistaken, Mr Etherington was indulging in some extra marital frolicks. I wondered if the Oedipal sight of his wife giving suck to his 8 and 14 year old sons had adversely affected his desire to have sex with her. I strongly suspected it might, but i kept the thought to myself.
"Is he seeing someone else?" i asked gently.
"SCREWING someone else! I bet they're at it like rabbits. Filthy slut she is!" she hissed furiously.
"Are you quite sure?"
"I've just managed to get hold of his phone. I've read all the messages. All from HER! Do you want to see them?"
I didn't, but I sat quietly while Mrs Etherington read them out to me. I was inwardly squirming - Some of them were very explicit.
"They met in a Cafe. She was reading Plato. Plato! She's supposed to be an intellectual, and she can't even spell Cunnilingus! Or Clitoris!" she spat bitchily.
"I can't wait to lock your member."
"That's just a typo. I and O are next door to each other on a type writer." i said helpfully.
Mrs Etherington glared at me.
"Anyway, she's welcome to him. I've given him the best years of my life, and this is the thanks i get. BASTARD!" she shrieked, slamming her glass on the table.
She leapt up and began pacing up and down the kitchen. The static in her nylon nightie crackled as she moved.
Her eyes darted wildly from side to side. She looked like a caged animal. I surreptitiously hid the knife block under the kitchen sink.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" i asked feebly.
With a maniacal titter sloshed the remaining vodka into the glass and swigged deeply. I cringed as it dribbled down her chin and splattered her bony chest.
It seemed there was no way out of the situation. I noticed, with a twinge of alarm, that she had pushed her chair against the door, thereby preventing my escape.
She tottered unsteadily for a second and glowered at me over the rim of her glass.
"Have a drink." she slurred.
I wasn't about to argue.
"Oooh, what a good idea!" i replied with a matey grin.
The bottle of Vodka was empty. She lurched towards the drinks cabinet and grabbed a bottle of Martini, which i loathe.
"My favourite!" i trilled, as she sloshed it into a mug and thrust it into my hand.
I had always believed that our atavistic survival instinct kicks in when we are confronted with a potentially dangerous situation. That in times of stress and adversity our automatic pilot takes over, and bears us away to safety on a heady rush of adrenaline.
Not in this case, i thought grimly. Here i was, trapped in a confined space with an inordinately drunk, mentally unstable female. I'd be pretty angry too if i were her, i reflected, taking a fortifying swig of neat Martini.
I tried to ignore the two nubbly, round damp patches forming on either side of her belly button.
I finished the Martini with a shudder. Mrs Etherington rushed forward, rubbery breasts jiggling, and topped me up. The damp patches were getting bigger.
"What do you think I should do?" she asked, fixing me with blood shot eyes.
"Oh gosh, i don't know. " i said gravely, looking into my glass to avoid eye contact.
"Rubbish!" she shrieked, smacking her forehead with a clenched fist.
"You must have an idea what you'd do if you were me!" she demanded, stepping closer.
Her breath was sour. I caught a stench of rancid milk and dried sweat.
Her eyes were bulging slightly and i noticed with alarm, the vein throbbing angrily on her clammy forehead.
She fumbled in her dressing ground pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills. She shook three out with trembling hands and knocked them back with a slug of Brandy.
"PLease, help me. I don't know what to do." she whimpered pleadingly. In a split second, her demeanor had switched from bristling aggression, to plainitive vulnerability, and back again.
"And you can shut up! If i want your opinion i'll ask for it!" she hissed at the microwave.
"Bloody electrical appliances. Always going on at me; telling me what to do and how to do it. Interfering bastards! " she muttered.
I nodded sympathetically, and fought a rising surge of nervous hysteria.
She stood on one bristly leg, muttering darkly to herself, and throwing suspicious glances at the kettle.
My ears were throbbing with the effort of trying not to giggle. I have always found the wrong things funny. The graver the situation, the bigger the urge to howl with laughter; it's not born of callousness or insensitivity - it's something to do with releasing tension.
I was wondering how much more i could stand before i exploded, when i heard a creak of floorboards in the hall way. Mrs Etherington heard it too.
Her head whipped round. She glared at the kitchen door with preternaturally wide eyes. She looked like Sissy Spacek in Carrie, just after they tip the bucket of pigs blood over her head at the prom night.
The handle turned, the door creaked open. Mr Etherington's bearded, bleary eyed little face appeared.
What are you doing down here Sue? Why is there a chair against the door?" he asked, sidling in. He was wearing grey Y fronts and a Green Peace vest.
I sidled towards the door.
"No You don't!" she barked, rushing forward and slamming the door.
"What's all this about?" frowned her Husband.
She snorted derisively.
"WHat's this all about?" she mimicked.
"I KNOW ALL ABOUT YOUR TART!" she screamed!
Mr Etherington looked like Wind In The Willow's Toad after he'd crashed his car.
"DOn't be so ridiculous woman. What the hell are you on about?" he spluttered.
"Don't you call me ridiculous you little shit! I know all about your precious Sylvia!"
"Sylvia is one of my students." Mr Etherington replied in a sanctimonious voice.
"Don't you lie to me! I've seen the text messages. I know all about your sordid little trysts in Travel Lodge, and what you get up to. You disgusting man!"
"How dare you read my text messages!" Mr Etherington exploded. He didn't look remotely sorry.
"How long has it been going on?" she demanded.
"I'm not discussing it in front of Mrs Miller." Mr Etherington sighed.
"Don't mind me." i said.
"HOW LONG!" screamed Mrs Etherington, hurling her brandy glass at him. He ducked just in time and it smashed into smithereens against the wall.
"For Gods sake, control yourself woman!" shouted Mr Etherington.
Mrs Etherington rushed forward and punched him in the face. There was a sickening crack as his nasal bone shattered.
Mr Etherington was moaning in pain and horror. He collapsed on a chair looking faint while i rushed around trying to find a roll of kitchen towel to mop up the blood.
"I'm leaving! I'm going to find a big cliff and jump off it, and then maybe you'll be sorry!" shrieked Mrs Etherington, grabbing the brandy bottle and making for the door.
"You can't go out now. It's minus 3 out there." i said.
"Good, I hope it kills me!" she sobbed, staggering out of the back door and disappearing into the night.

To cut a very long story short, the Police were duly summoned and the search for Mrs Etherington began. She was discovered at 5am, passed out in a neighbours goat pen, beneath an old jute rug. Notwithstanding some nasty scratches from falling into a blackthorn hedge, and a torn night dress, she was none the worse for her ordeal.
A very apologetic Mr Etherington came and settled the bill at 6 am and informed me that they wouldn't be requiring breakfast. Mrs Etherington was sitting in the passenger seat of the car looking bewildered.

"Thankyou Mrs Miller. I'm so sorry you were privy to that dreadful scene." Mr Etherington said, picking up his suitcase.

"Not at all." i smiled.

I was watching the car drive away down the lane, when Jasper walked in yawning.

"Why is there glass and blood all over the floor?" he frowned.
"I'll tell you in a minute, but first i need a Brandy...."

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