Archive for December 2014

Christmas? To Room 101 with it!

I hope that most people who know me generally wouldn’t consider me to be a Grinch-like character. But there is one aspect of me that is certainly up there with The Big G.

I just don’t like Christmas.

There, I’ve said it.

The fact is that I would dearly love to opt out of the whole charade, but I simply don’t know how to, without upsetting at least a few people. Christmas, it seems, isn’t optional.

I have no problem with the “peace on Earth, and goodwill to all men (and, of course, women and children of both genders)” aspect. In fact, it’s a principle that I try to live by all year round – I don’t save it up until December.

It’s the compulsory jollity that gets me down. I don’t want to dress in stupid clothes and drink myself senseless, thanks. I really don’t need to stuff myself full of the kind of foods that, in sufficient quantities, could induce a heart attack that would fell a hippo (tasty though they may be, brussels sprouts excepted).

I can do without the stress of choosing and buying crap gifts that the recipient neither wants or needs. Sending greetings cards by the dozen to people I wouldn’t know if they attacked me in the street seems utterly pointless. If we have any kind of relationship, let’s write¬†in April or July, just because. But how do you stop without offending people? (Perhaps they want to stop too, but don’t know how to without offending me? Hint – Just stop, I won’t be offended, just delighted, I promise.)

Of course, the whole shebang has no relevance to me from a religious perspective, since I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth atheist who seriously doubts the existence of the messiah whose birth we’re supposed to be celebrating. It’s as relevant to me as Ramadan. Quite apart from which, many of the things that we have come to accept as symbolic of this Christian event are pagan in origin. In fact, the religious bit of it has become such a minor part of it, that I’m sure many people don’t even know about it these days.

As if this lot isn’t enough, it all starts earlier and earlier, usually some time in November or even October, and is pushed down your throat pretty constantly thereafter. By the time the actual day arrives, it’s a huge anti-climax, and I for one am heartily sick of the whole thing by then. And it’s all to do with making you spend yourself silly. The idea that I’m being emotionally hoodwinked into impoverishing myself for the likes of Amazon’s bottom line kind of irks me, you know?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to cancel Christmas. If you enjoy it, go ahead – knock yourself out. I’m quite happy to bemusedly watch it go by from afar, and otherwise have nothing whatsoever to do with it. But that’s almost impossible. There seems to be a cultural obligation to take part in the charade, or be marked as a sort of pariah.

One day, I’ll make the break completely. I don’t know how, or when, but I’m determined to do it.

(I quite like the idea of a winter family gathering, as they used to have before Christmas go really going, with a good meal and conviviality, without all of the above nonsense. Perhaps I can persuade those whom I hold near and dear to go along with this idea…)

My new career in the Leisure Industry

Since my last entry, waaaaay back in June (where did THAT time go???), I have embarked on a new venture, and jolly good fun it is proving to be, too.

I had major surgery done on my house back in April, completely re-modelling the existing bathroom, and adding a new en-suite facility to the guest room. At the time, there was no intention to extend these facilities to anyone other than our occasional friends-and-families visitors. However, AirBnB was brought to my attention as something I might try, to help fill my daily void and, potentially to recoup some of my outlay on the alterations.

I’d never heard of AirBnB before, and if you haven’t, I suggest you give it a serious looking at as a much cheaper and more interesting form of accommodation for travelers.

To summarise, it is a web-based way of letting out spare rooms for financial reward. You can be as basic or extravagant in your facilities as you like, and as long as you are honest and open about your offering, then your guests can expect an experience that’s always going to be more interesting and personal than, say, Travelodge.

I started letting the guest room out at the end of July, making my entry on the AirBnB site live at about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. I thought that I’d be doing well if I got any sort of response within, say, a month. Eight hours later, I got my first enquiry, and it’s been pretty busy ever since. I’ve had a steady stream of visitors from a wide variety of age-groups and countries – Canada, Australia, USA, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Romania and even some from the UK. Bookings have slackened a little since November; that’s to be expected in the winter, I guess, but I already have several bookings for next year, so it promises to be busy again.

The most surprising and satisfying thing is that everyone, without exception, has been really pleasant, and it’s been a genuine pleasure sharing our home with them. Some are more private than others, preferring to spend their time in their room, or watching a movie in the conservatory, but others are happy to share the lounge with us, have a drink and a chat, and to just chill. We’ve learned a lot that way – not just about the individuals, but about their homes and their ways of life.

We’ve seen the other side of the coin, too, and have used AirBnB as guests three times so far. The three stays have been very different, but have each been extremely pleasant and so much more enjoyable than the Travelodge way of doing things. We’re so sold on it that we have future trips to Scotland and Canada all booked up with AirBnB.

So, if you have spare accommodation capacity – ANY spare capacity at all – I can recommend giving AirBnB a go **. You can do as much or as little of it as you want, even offer the most modest of facilities and people will come. You’ll meet some fascinating folk along the way, and make a few bob too.

What’s not to like?

** Unless you live in or very near to Llanfairfechan. Then, of course, you’d hate it. (And I’m not just saying that because I don’t want the competition. No, really.)

If you want to have a gander at my ¬†humble offering, take a peek here…