By Helvi Oosterman
Our little cottage, or maybe I should call it a shack, is usually let to the nicest possible people. They rent it because they like the idea of staying in somewhere old and charming; somewhat sloping floors, aged newspaper/wallpaper still visible here and there and of course the slow combustion fire place and stacks of books and CD’s on the shelves …
Now all the lettings are done through internet, via e-mails rather than telephone. At times those calls made it very hard to stay civil and to agree that the customer is always right. There was this loud and opiniated American woman who demanded to know how old the bed linen was. I patiently explained that we had only been in operation about two weeks, so sheets and towels were only fourteen days old. Next she wanted to find out the standard of the general cleanliness in the cottage. I don’t know what she expected me to say; maybe she was eager to know what time I had vacuumed the place, and what cleaning products I used in the bathroom.
“Your question is rather ambiguous as my standards of cleanliness might be a lot higher than yours”, I replied and quickly added that I didn’t like her style of questioning and that I was not going send any requested pamphlets to her either. Huh, I got out that in one piece, thank god; she most likely would have sued us if she found a dog hair on the veranda cushions!
Another interesting call came from a young mum of twins; she enquired after possible horse riding places nearby. At time the insurance costs for that kind of activity had sky-rocketed; many horse owners had also stopped the practice. I passed the news to her and she seemed most disappointed and that made me ask her how old her twins were. “They will be two next month.” I did not say anything after that.
Still, horse riding is something that people like to do in the country; it was just the age of the boys that threw me. I can relate to this eagerness to get the kids into activities as it is what these modern mums do. I was flabbergasted when another lady asked me what was there to do for her husband who was supposedly easily bored. I felt like saying; “Join the club; I have one of those as well. I usually do a spot of belly dancing at nine after the kids have gone to bed.”
Instead I sweetly rattled on about cycling, hill climbing, and swimming, boule playing or maybe just reading in front of the fire…
Then there was this nice Chinese girl who wanted to know what kind of animals we had on the farm. I proudly listed the alpacas and their cute off spring, the chickens, ducks, peacocks and what the kids seem to like best: our three toddler friendly dogs. “What about sheep”, she asked. “Next door neighbour has thousands of them, just behind the nearest fence”, was my curt reply.
She rang at least two more times, still asking about the sheep. Finally I couldn’t help it any longer and I had to ask:”Lee, what is it that you want do with those sheep, practice some shearing or what? “
She couldn’t stop laughing and when she came with her kids, all they wanted to do was to play with our lovely dogs…