The Crow House Barn Project: Sweating the Small Stuff

We’re in business!

So after four months of hard labour, literally, we finally listed Crow House Barn on airbnb two weeks ago. Kind friends, who were keen that we weren’t disappointed if our listing landed with a dull thud, said that we mustn’t worry if we didn’t get any bookings for a week or two… or more. We had taken some stunning photographs (this is not the time for modesty!) and we had gardened ourselves into the ground so we were pleased with the general look.

Re the garden: both sit-on lawn mowers have now died or are, at least, in their final death throes, so the only workable mower is the petrol push one which we acquired from dear friends who were moving to a house without a lawn. Now with nearly an acre to mow, we thought this might be beyond the powers of the Degsbellini, as we have named this powerful little workhorse. But no, we can mow the lot and boy, does it push up your step count! We do, however, do it in sections meaning that it’s a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge – get to one end and it’s time to start at the beginning again!

Also, although we never close our curtains in our bedroom, we were reliably informed that normal human beings like to sleep in the dark so velux blinds had to be purchased – and fitted. Cue lots of Youtube video tutorials and an equivalent amount of swearing!

We spent ages trying to get the right words on the airbnb listing and various family members had their six penn’orth until everyone agreed that it was ok. Then we looked at the competition and did our best to pitch ourselves price-wise at a competitive level. Airbnb encouraged us to offer a discount on our first three bookings and we took their advice. Then we pressed ‘go’ and hoped for the best.

Less than twelve hours later, in the words of Ghostbusters, “We got one!” We were ridiculously over-excited before reality set in that there were still a lot of jobs on the to-do list and some of them required some heavy lifting.

Then, like the cavalry, child number 2 and Stocko (her other half and very practical) announced that they and Milton (the semi-resident dog who splits his time between this parish and London) would come for the weekend. Number 3 was informed that all time over the weekend not actually spent on the cricket field would be required to assist us – and his lovely girlfriend too. Then a skip was hired for the clearance of what is normally known as Steptoe’s Yard. The amount of concrete, wire, wood, dustbins, bonfire and general rubbish in this area of our garden never bothers us – because we can’t see it from the house or most of the garden. But our lovely guests will have their main view across 31 years of rubbish and something had to be done – in a weekend – because that was all we had. Added to the labour team was Bradley who sported the finest pair of shorts of the weekend and worked so hard for only a modest amount of beer!

The manual element of clearance took a lot less time than we thought although it had to be augmented by our ex-neighbour and top chum who came over later in the week with his digger and achieved miracles. Yard cleared – result!

Then number 2 decided that the lean-to where the semi-demised lawn mowers live would make an excellent al fresco dining area. Mowers moved, walls and doors painted (the latter in Yves St Laurent blue in homage to his beautiful garden in Marrakech) and artfully sited plants in pots and mangers (thank you Mrs Broccoli!) turned a very shabby area into something of a sun-trap for outdoor breakfasts and morning coffee. We might even move the chiminea in there if I can get someone to lift it!

Meanwhile we have had quite a few bookings and suddenly our hope that we would at least get back what we had spent on refurbishing the barn looks like a reality. Still plugging along doing jobs with no guests booked in till Friday of this week, I arrive home from a tennis match late in the evening last Thursday to discover we have guests arriving in TWO DAYS!

Of course, the stuff we haven’t quite finished is things like the Welcome Book or Bible giving guests the skinny on everything they need to know. Well, I’ve done my bit, acquired loads of leaflets on local attractions from the Tourism Office (super-helpful!) but the ‘how everything works’ bit is down to my beloved and no amount of chivvying is going to get that done any faster. It did get done in the end but there was a danger that sparks might fly – and not because our guests misused the egg boiler (which clearly they managed without the relevant instructions!). The Welcome Book reads like War and Peace but we are thorough if painfully so.

Our guests arrived whilst I was out playing tennis (again – should I admit to this?!) and my beloved showed them everything. When I came back and parked next to the car more posh than either of ours, my initial instinct was to rush in and say hi! But, of course, these folks have not come to see me, or us; they have come to spend a relaxing time without the over-enthusiastic, dog-tail-wagging greetings from me. Lesson learnt. I left them to it.

And they were lovely. We met eventually and they were incredibly tidy and polite and they are welcome to come again – very. And now we’re learning to do the change-over ready for our next guests. We are in business!

Crow House Barn