I’M thinking of doing Airbnb. I tell a friend.
“Nightmare,” she says. “My sister does it in Bath. She says guests post public reviews on the website after they’ve stayed and you can’t have them taken down.”
“Like what?” I say.
“Like, ‘found a hair on the upstairs landing’.”
“They’d post a message like that,” I say. “For finding a normal hair, just from your head.”
“Apparently,” she says. “But you can respond to their complaint publicly too.”
“So you could say: ‘Sorry about hair on landing but my house was otherwise immaculate and a perfect spot for trout-fishing’.”
“Trout-fishing?” she says.
“Just came off the top of my head,” I say.
“You can say whatever you like,” she says.
“So you could respond: ‘Get over it’,” I say. “Or: ‘Who are you — Princess and the Pea?’”
“Only if you don’t want repeat Airbnb custom,” she says.
I phone my OCD London sister, an experienced Airbnb host, for tips.
“Best piece of advice,” I say.
“A single hair can be your undoing,” she says. “A stray hair can be all that stands between you and Superhost status.”
“What’s a Superhost?” I say.
“An experienced hosts who provide a shining example,” she says. “If you get to be a superhost, a badge automatically appears on your Airbnb listing. It helps boost your profile.”
“Any other tips, besides hair ones?” I say.
“It’s difficult,” she says. “I haven’t seen your new place yet, not since you did it up. I’ve only got your old farmhouse to go on.”
“You’ve seen photos,” I say.
“The photos look amazing,” she says with much suspicion. “But it’s not hard evidence.”
“That’s exactly what it is,” I say. “That’s why they produce it in courts. To prove things.”
“Sorry,” she says. “I’m still stuck in the past.”
“But I even sent you a photo of my posh linen cupboard,” I say.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” she says. “Your last linen cupboard was a lucky dip. You could go in for a towel and come out with a chicken. And it looked perfectly innocent from the outside.”
“I need tips,” I say.
“I’ll Whatsapp you tips when they come to me,” she says.
I have ordered four sets of bed linen online.
“How come we never got to sleep on bed linen like that?” my daughters say.
“I was your mother,” I say. “Not your Airbnb Superhost.”
My sister sends me a Whatsapp tip in the morning.
“Clean the bathroom with a toothbrush. You can’t be too careful about hair, particularly the pubic variety.”
“Even the floor?” I message back. “That’s a large surface area.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she says. “Just the shower tray, trap, taps, hose, and tile grout. You mop the floor then hoover after.”
She sends me another in the afternoon.
“Not being funny but on the day they come, before I do my final hoover, I sometimes hoover my head with my little hand held cordless vacuum.”
I have just received my first booking.
“That’s great,” my sister says on the phone. “But I had a look at your airbnb listing and I think you should put down ‘artist-owned’ in the description. So people know it’s full of random arty things like... macabre music-boxes. There are loads of weirdos who like that sort of thing.”
“So I’m going for the weirdo market now,” I say.
“Clean weirdos,” she says.
“Don’t you think ‘artist-owned’ sounds a bit... wanky?” I say.
“Your house is full of wanky things,” she says.
My guests arrive this afternoon. My husband is outside the back door, strimming the back garden.
I am standing by the front door, sizing up my ancient, battered Henry, in relation to my head.
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