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Fantasy vs Reality

When people warned me that running a guest house was hard work I arrogantly retorted back ‘What job isn’t hard work?’. Well, as is becoming customary, I am having to eat my words. In one sense I was right, I am yet to have a job that isn’t hard work but running a guest house is so much more relentless: There’s just no let-up. Don’t get me wrong, we love it and we wouldn’t change it for the world but if someone offered me a lie in, a weekend, or even just a day off I would kiss their feet.

It occurred to me, while pondering the depths of my arrogance, that I wrote a blog almost a year ago depicting my life in Cornwall. It seemed only fair and right to re-visit said blog and compare the reality of the situation to the fantastical dreamworld I dreamt up over a Starbucks coffee (I would pay well over the odds for a Starbucks coffee now!) in North London.

Last night as I sat in a cafe in Angel drinking a strong, black Americano coffee I felt a shiver of excitement. I suddenly pictured myself drinking coffee down by the beach while listening to the waves crash on the sand and breathing in fresh air. The sun isn’t necessarily in the sky, but it is quiet, and it is clean…

Hmmm… I did have a coffee on the beach a few months ago, it was sunny but the sand got everywhere and as it was a Saturday there were loads of families out so quiet it wasn’t! Got the bit about fresh air right but I didn’t really notice it as I was distracted by trying to resist the pull of the cornish pasties.

(if this was a film it would now go into soft focus)

Enough said!

Breakfast is over and done with, and the cleaning is being finished off by Danny (go with it, it’s fantasy remember). I’ve grabbed Jasper Penworthy (our dog) and taken him for a run. He is now sitting under the picnic table on a lead while I sip my coffee out of a polystyrene cup and stare out to the horizon. Clouds are thick and grey, yet romantic in a Wuthering Heights way; and there are wave crests giving a few die-hard surfers a good time.

Where do I even start with this one? First of all, Danny always finishes his cleaning chores first so the chances of me ‘escaping’ after I’ve finished are not even slim to none. Secondly – a dog?! You’re joking! The last thing I want to be doing when I have some time off is worry about walking a dog. Love ‘em… but love not having the responsibility more! Thirdly, clouds are thick and grey but didn’t expect this in August, and staring out at the horizon is all well and good but it gets a bit boring after about 30 seconds.

There’s chatter from a few tourists but it’s not busy as we’re out of season at the moment. Overall it’s quiet – really quiet; I’m wearing a windbreaker and a knitted scarf and enjoying the way the wind picks up my hair and whips it around my head. I realise that I haven’t used hair mousse for over 6 months, as the water in Cornwall is so soft my hair doesn’t need it. How funny, I realise I’m not wearing make-up either, and I remember that I haven’t worn high heels in – what feels like – years.

Right… ignoring the fact that we haven’t really been here ‘out of season’ yet let’s cut straight to the wind picking up my hair, well – I got that right, what I failed to mention is that it’s always just after I’ve blowdried it which, contrary to my previously held beliefs, needs about a ton of mousse to hold it in place due to – yes, you guessed it – the ‘lovely’ soft water.

With regards to the make-up, that is still firmly in place; I have to serve breakfast after getting up at some ungodly time in the morning so need something to make myself look lively. Heels haven’t been out from under my bed since we moved here (apart from on my birthday where, despite the inappropriateness of the surroundings – we were up a hill in a castle – I wore them proudly). What I didn’t realise was that I would MISS them… a LOT!

It’s a moment of peace. A moment that has become part of my everyday life since I moved down here.

Hahahahahahahaha Hahahahahahahaha Hahahahahahahaha Hahahahahahahaha… peace does happen occasionally and when it does I want to love it, I really do, but I’m usually all too ready to use it as an excuse to watch television or have a sneaky nap.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the afternoon. I’ll probably take Jasper for another run on the way back and then settle down for lunch and a quick read of the paper. I’ve got some work to do, an award entry that needs writing for my old company, and I need to find time to bake muffins before new guests arrive at 5pm. Danny’s doing the shopping (again – go with it) and I was going to make a quick update to the website; but that can be wait till later.

(1) I haven’t done an ounce of freelance work for my old company since I moved here and nor do I have the time. (2) I wasn’t a huge ‘paper reader’ then and moving to Cornwall hasn’t changed that – I’m much more of a ‘Sunday Supplement’ kind of gal. (3) I do enjoy the baking but muffins have long since been abandoned  in favour of oat cookies which I can manufacture on an increasingly efficient level (4) Quick updates to the website can never be ‘left till later’, if our Availability Checker isn’t up to date continuously we WILL get caught out and end up disappointing someone (which is horrible).

Arriving back at the house I am struck, as always, by the way the skylight illuminates the hallway; it makes it look so welcoming. The smell of toast still lingers from breakfast, and I automatically straighten the umbrella rack as I walk through into the kitchen. I sit down at the table and boot up my laptop to check emails.

Toast smells don’t linger. There is no skylight (what was I thinking?). It is welcoming though, I got that right.

As I work I notice how peaceful everything is and how far away I am from London, from the commute and the noise, and I laugh to myself when I remember how worried I was about this move.

Could this blog be considered work? If it can then I think this sentence is bang on. I am sitting in the ‘office’ at the back of our kitchen working on my laptop. The local radio is on in the background. Despite the weather forecast the sun is streaming in through the kitchen window and Danny is out (he’s at golf, not shopping).

It’s 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon and I should be in an office worrying about a deadline. I’m not however, I’m in my lovely house which is full of lovely guests from all over the world. The cleaning is done, the admin is done and I have the rest of the afternoon to myself, bar a guest check-in around 6pm.

It is hard work and it’s not a fantasy but it’s my work and history tells me that fantasies are best left in our heads rather than out there in the wide world anyway. Give me my reality any day.

Matt says:

Wow. found your blog just this evening, from an old link on the st ives cornwall blog. It has been a pleasure and inspiration to read all your posts and follow your story to achieving your dreams.

I have been coming to st ives all my life, and it is the dream of my wife and I to live there eventually. We currently visit twice a year, 2 weeks in summer and for new year. we look forward to finding your place on our next visit.

Good luck.

Porter says:

Exactly where is the facebook like button ?

dulcie says:

Lee, you are brilliant! x

Rosie says:

It might not be quite how you envisaged but sounds like the reality is every bit as good and that is music to my ears. So pleased you ditched the dog idea otherwise I think Louis would have had a companion!

Ann Patey says:

“First of all, Danny always finishes his cleaning chores first so the chances of me ‘escaping’ after I’ve finished are not even slim to none.”

Lee, you need to reapportion the chores. I’m sure Danny won’t mind evening out the balance!

David says:

Best blog so far Lee….made me smile…allot. Believe me you are better off doing house chores than emails, granted the coffee is probably better in London!

michelle says:

awww I love this blog. You inspire me every day…. sounds like hard work but you love it xx

Sam says:

I am here with a deadline tomorrow and a inbox full or crap ;)

Enjoy it all! Need to come see you guy soon x

Roberta Field says:

Absolutely gorgeous my darling xxx