We have booked a small B and B for a couple of nights in Teignmouth, a seaside town in Devon. We are visiting friends and the B and B is nearby, which is why we chose it.
Actually I chose it, which is a little annoying, because as soon as we spot it I know I will want to blame Gordon for choosing it. It’s a typical English house built in the 70’s or 80’s “beautified” by some large planters filled with flowers in full bloom, which line the front of the house supposedly to make up for the fact that there is no front garden. There appears to be nothing special about it at all and as you know I really don’t do “nothing special”
But as we pull into the driveway there are encouraging signs. The first of which is a 2003 Aston Martin. 2003 is the last year that Aston Martins were all hand made, and this one is immaculate
The second sign is a 1960’s E type, also immaculate.
There is also a Mercedes Smart Car, looking anything but smart compared to the others.
But back to reality with the front door. It is a rather ordinary, typically English “modern” front door, made of white vinyl with panes of frosted glass. We ring the bell and wait. We wait for a while. Eventually we see movement through the frosted glass and the door opens.
Having seen the cars, I was rather hoping for a little bit of fabulosity in our hostess. Sadly that is not what we get. She is petite, slim and tanned. Her hair is big, as are her glasses. They look as if they belong to a much larger person. The glasses fill most of her face from her eyebrows to the bottom of her nose. Her hair is an unruly mop that sits untidily on her shoulders and hangs over the top of her glasses. It is the shade of blonde which women of a certain age dye their hair, to disguise the fact that they turned grey years ago. Her genuinely welcoming smile reveals a crooked but perfectly white set of teeth. She is wearing a form fitting mini dress that reveals a generous and perky cleavage, over a pair of tight jeans. She obviously looks after her figure but is not quite so careful about her appearance. There are splatters of what looks like white paint all over her and her glasses, with heavy streaks of it in her hair. She looks like a Jackson Pollack reject. It is an odd look, especially when meeting paying guests.
She tells us her name is Marilyn and apologises for taking so long to answer the door. “I’ve been painting the garage” she explains ” and I had to wash off the paint before I greeted you”
“I think you missed a spot” I say
“Oh dear, can you see any paint on me?” she asks. “It is white” she adds rather unnecessarily
Gordon, who usually leaves the talking to me and then complains later that I was rude, suddenly leaps into the conversation and says “Well it starts at your cleavage and carries on all the way up to your hair”
There is silence while she decides how to react to that. After a moment she shrieks with laughter. So at least now we know we are going to enjoy our stay.
She carries on by saying “I can’t think how I missed any. I was so careful to wash everywhere”
“Perhaps you should have started with your glasses” I say.
She laughs again.
She doesn’t stop talking. She tells us that she worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years, and that she met her husband there. All this within the first 10 minutes of meeting her, and we are still standing in the entrance way. I wonder if we will ever be invited in and what intimate details she will share over the next two days.
Finally she shows us through the house and into our room. The house is definitely more interesting on the inside. Walls are lined with Middle Eastern memorabilia and antiques. Arabian swords line one wall, ferocious masks another. Our bedroom door is anything but ordinary. It has large brass studs, a huge brass bolt, a separate lock and a door handle. I have no idea what an Arabian cell door looks like, but if I had to conjure up an image of one it might look just like this.
Our bedroom closet has a similar but less threatening look.
I am not sure what to make of it all, but it certainly doesn’t come under the heading “nothing special”. Neither does the fact that our introduction to the house is frequently interrupted by frightening screams coming from upstairs. Marilyn ignores them which is worrying.
The screams get louder and more frequent. It is disconcerting to say the least. I wonder whether the bolt and lock on our door is not to keep us in, but rather to keep something out. Finally Marilyn realises that an explanation is needed
“That’s Motley” she explains ” He won’t settle until he is introduced to you. He always wants to know who is staying in the house”
“Would you mind if I brought him down to meet you?”
“Yes, I think we probably would” I want to say.
But I am British through and through and so I hear myself saying “No. Of course not” . Surely she must hear the trepidation in my voice.
“I won’t be a moment”
She goes upstairs and there is more shrieking. We can hear her saying “Now Motley, stop that”
Gordon and I exchange looks. This is not good
“Come on Motley. Don’t be difficult. You know you will feel better when you have met the nice men who are staying with us”
Perhaps we can make a quick escape before Marilyn comes down. We start edging our way to the front door, but just as we get our hand on the handle, Marilyn appears at the top of the stairs. On her arm is a huge and very beautiful macaw.
“This is Motley” Marilyn says.
Of course it is.
Motley immediately stops screeching
Marilyn stands there chatting while Motley tugs at the neckline of her mini dress causing it to plunge even further. She ignores it, but it is hard for us to do the same.
“Don’t worry” she continues “Motley is perfectly house trained”
That isn’t what we are worried about.
She explains that they have taught Motley to go to the toilet three times a day. He sits on a stick and they hold him over the toilet and he does what is necessary. As she is telling us this Motley lets loose with a stream of excrement that lands on her feet.
“Oh, that’s just because he is nervous” Marilyn says
Another stream of excrement hits the floor.
“He seems to be very nervous” I say
Marilyn laughs and Motley tugs the neckline of her dress even lower
“Does he talk? ” I ask
“We’ve had him for thirty years and the only thing he has ever learned to say is “Motley hurry up. Do it now Motley”
We are worried that he will, but he seems to have completely emptied his bowels. For the moment, anyway.
We meet Marilyn’s husband, Mike, the owner of the two cars outside the house. He renovates classic cars for a living and is the proud owner of 15 classic cars. He keeps them at his workshop and drives a different one each day. The next morning a Morris Minor Convertible has replaced the Jag. Not quite in the same class, but as it is the exact same model I owned as a 20 year old, I am thrilled to see it.
Marilyn it turns out is a fan of the Smart Car. So much so that she has three of them. The one in the driveway is 10 years old and she uses it for everyday use. The second one has a bike rack on the back and she uses it when she wants to go cycling. The third is her pride and joy and is only three years old. She keeps it for special occasions. But as her husband takes her in the Aston Martin to special occasions it hardly ever leaves the garage.
So maybe there is a little touch of fabulosity here after all. Which is good news for Gordon because it means there is one less thing for me to blame him for.