We chose the finest photographer in the land, because he is our friend, so it was easy to manipulate him with gentle blackmail and cries for help. As soon as we fixed a date of his precious time we realised how bad everything looked.
First hurdle. Remove the tree to the left of the door to make space and light. The tree was stubborn and not interested in our blunt electric chain saw. So we called a tree surgeon, who pointed out that this was an ancient yew and flatly refused to remove it.
He explained that a yew is full of good spirits and you can invoke the devil himself, and a lot of nastiness, if you cut one down. Luckily devils are OK about a quick trim though, so we settled for that.
The tree took on a sensible, devil free, shape and revealed a lot of mouldy plaster. After a day of fuss with scaffold and leaning out at dangerous angles to reach corners we got it back to yellow again.
A couple of chairs, a pink scarf and the finest photographer that blackmail can buy is all you need.
And we had this.
But inside the bedding was out of control.
I have never noticed a crinkle on a duvet cover before. Why would I? You can’t hurt yourself lying on a crinkle.
But you can if you are on holiday so all beds must be absolutely flat or people won’t enter the building. This was the first attempt with a helpful scattering of unopened pillows.
After a long fight, especially with those pillows, it was ready and the photo magic happened again.
The crinkles on the left hand pillow look sharp and somebody needs to go on a towel folding course but we got the bedroom shot.
We moved on to the bathroom where a bigger hurdle lurked. ‘Do you have products?’ was the tricky question. That is the problem with good photographers, they do their research. Even the ones who normally only take high art shots of amazing characters across the world, like ours does. He knew we needed products and we didn’t.
I looked in our bathroom for inspiration.
It wasn’t ideal, but we found a couple of empty containers and the wizardry continued.
We had our bathroom shot, with a hint of products.
After two days of this magic it was time for the next step.
Getting the Listing up
Cocky with the lovely photos and confident about this area, it took just a day to write expansively about the wonders of coming here, and most of it was true. Professional photos mingled with nice snaps.
Here is the local pub, look at the blue sky. Tra la la, cycle everywhere, bla bla, wildlife on the doorstep, whatever. Hit the ‘Go Live’ button and wait.
It takes one day to realise you have made an awful mistake, three more to realise how much life you wasted on a venture that is a total failure and some more days to accept these facts.
But then the phone made a noise.
Getting used to the Noise.
The app that manages the bookings makes a little sparkling tingle noise. Not the one from the family or other WhatsApp groups that is a kind of groan, or the text message ting that says ‘stop relaxing somebody needs you now’. This one sounds like Tinkerbell herself is visiting and means ‘they like the barn, you did good, they are coming’. It is a dear noise.
As soon as the bookings started, there were snags and jobs. The oven fell out, a windowsill warped, a window jammed shut and we couldn’t work out how to work the heaters. First Arrival loomed like Christmas day, but we made it, managed to fill the kitchen with treats and act almost normal when the first people arrived.
Suddenly there they were. Real strangers with suitcases, children and everything you need for a real holiday. All we had to do was show them where to go, hand over the key and go back into our own house. It was hard not to gabble nervously, apologise about the rain as if it was our fault, or start trying to tell them all about the barn and what we have been doing for the last month in case they needed to know that the oven fell out. They didn’t.
So we went home and sat there, all evening, wondering what they were doing and how they were. It was just like the day you get a new pet.
Tame them with Chickens
Like any new pet you have to allow a bit of time for settling in. On day one they are a little subdued but after that you can introduce them to their surroundings.
We learnt quickly and now have a routine for day two. All it takes is one question. ‘Would your children like to meet the chickens?’ And then you have them. Suddenly they are not strangers, just friendly neighbours with stories to tell, lives to compare and children who will understand the meaning of chickens for ever.
Backstage is still a mess and garden is a jungle, but every week the chickens get new names. Today they are Sybil, Helen, Loretta and Gertrude
This might be Loretta, I am not sure. But she likes meeting new people and loves the chaos in the garden.