Ian Moore: Running a B&B in France isn’t always easy
I stood by the kitchen island and smiled warmly at the businessman as he came downstairs for his breakfast. The place was laid out just as I like it. On the island was a selection of exotic juices and yoghurts; homemade jams, a jug of milk, fresh baguettes and still warm Viennoiserie, croissants, pains au chocolat, pains aux raisins and so on. The coffee filled the place with a warm, comforting aroma and the breakfast fruit salad glinted like jewels in a bowl in the early morning light. The table was laid for one, and the businessman seemed impressed at the trouble I’d gone to, even though he was the only guest in our B&B.
“Bonjour,” he smiled and shook my hand awkwardly – some people insist on these formalities at breakfast – and then he pointed at my hair. “Is it raining outside?” he asked. My wet hair was the only clue left in the place that gave any hint at all to the total and utter flapping mayhem that had dominated the preceding 15 minutes.
I had been slightly ahead of schedule, I usually am, and was floating confidently around the kitchen with something of a rare jaunty air when suddenly, like a test car on a skid pan, I hit a patch of water, flipped 180 degrees and finished lying face down on the stone floor tiles. This was not part of the breakfast plan. It wasn’t difficult to trace the source of the water though as it was still pouring through a ceiling beam and hitting my face. For a second I lay there and responded in typical Moore fashion by swearing at the gods and all their pernicious ways – then I sprang into action.
The businessman was taking a shower in his room directly above the kitchen-salon. The fact that he was taking a shower drew more colourful language and a fist shake at the heavens, “It’s a bath, mate, not a bloody shower. Take a bloody bath!” I grabbed some towels from my linen wardrobe and threw them on the wet floor, then I stuffed a couple more towels in the gap between the beam and the ceiling. The shower stopped upstairs which meant the flow of water downstairs would end soon, but then I noticed that a river had built up on a groove in the beam, run along the beam and was now dripping onto my island, narrowly missing the baguettes – nobody wants soggy baguettes for breakfast – but dripping so neatly into the toaster, it looked almost like an indoor water feature.
I gave off a kind of Basil Fawlty whimper and stood blinking at the bread-grilling timebomb in front of me. The toaster was the companion piece to the kettle, high-class DeLonghi kitchenware, but until now rarely used. I mean, we serve fresh French baguettes, I’m at the boulangerie at the crack of dawn, only an animal would toast fresh baguettes… I removed the toaster from view, mopped the island, cleaned the floor, titivated my breakfast display and then heard the door open upstairs. I quickly shoved all my wet towels into the oven, slammed the oven door shut, placed my hands nonchalantly on the island and smiled warmly at the businessman as he came downstairs for his breakfast. This is where we came in and only my wet hair gave me away. I regard it as one of my main achievements as a B&B host, smalltime hotelier, call it what you will, that for the most part, I manage to suppress my natural inclination to spiky crankiness. It’s part of the job, and though I fall off the wagon occasionally, I keep a pretty firm lid on things, bite my tongue and lie back and think of England, as it were. But the longer I stay here, the weaker the stiff upper lip gets, and it’s sorely tested in hospitality…
Comedian and author Ian Moore writes a column in French Property News magazine – he often shares his anecdotes of running a B&B in France, you can have a (hopefully less stressful!) breakfast at La Pause
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