Thursday, April 17, 2008

Serendipity in a B and B

I usually prefer the anonymity of hotels when I travel. I also do not like auctions of estates and other opportunites to view the little things that mark the lives of someone I don't know. It feels awkward to be thrown into such intimate contact with strangers. Thus, I would never on my own choose a bed and breakfast. As my brother once said, "It's like staying with an aunt that you don't know very well." He may have added "and don't want to, " but he has always been more cynical than I am.

I often wind up doing things I would not otherwise do because it was a gift or something that someone picked out for me. Having said all that, I wound up in a bed and breakfast Tuesday night after having spent the day in a hospital 30 miles from home to support the person awaiting an operation. I felt as if I were juggling at least three weighty responsibilities: keep him cheerful, avoid anything that might be construed as harassment of already harassed NHS staff, and get the necessary information from the right person about what was going on and how it might affect the scheduled surgery for the next day.

I'll never know if I managed juggling all those things but by the time he had a bed it was after 7pm and the drive home felt beyond me. The hotel across the street from the hospital was full we discovered as we had a late dinner waiting for the bed to be available. When the would-be patient came back to announce that there was a harbor-view room in a little B and B and he had booked it for me, I was, of course, obliged to be grateful.

So in the twilight in a city that gives me the creeps unless the sun is shining like a supernova, I find myself walking map in hand to find another place away from home. Because I had thought I would be home, I had no toothbrush or T shirt or change of clothes. The temperature was dropping as I wandered on streets that did not intersect. I know I no longer live in cities carved out like Cartesian grids, but I was tired and thought that by cutting through this street, I would get where I needed to be. I was wrong by about 3 blocks.

Once on the street where it should be, I find nothing that matches the name (the sign over the door does not match their new name) and the card had no street address. I did remember that the last clue was "right next to a hair dresser's shop."

I knocked on the most likely door and was welcomed in with genuine warmth. The owner and his wife were happy to see me and take me in from the cold. The room was lovely. Too big but quiet and with a lovely modern shower (Put real showers and big deciduous trees near the top of the list of things that I miss most).

I improvised around what I had and didn't have and fell into bed using the TV to fill in the empty spots. I slept off and on and arrived at breakfast not well rested and not looking forward to eating by myself or to making small talk. I was nearly done and ready to head back to the hospital when serendipity caught up with me.

Having heard about the delays at the hospital, the proprietor came out and said, "I have a feeling you may have a long day today, too, keep the key and come back here and sit in the lounge rather than waiting in the hospital." It was such a lovely gesture of hospitality that I nearly cried.

Serendipity round 2 came in the shape of a former pub owner and his wife who were also staying in the B and B. We had the usual conversational stuff at the breakfast table and I was beginning to look for graceful exit times when I got hooked by their great good humour. They have retired and have wanted for a long time to come to this part of Scotland. That was a good wake up call to me for starters. Yes, it is beautiful, so beautiful that even people from Scotland want to come here. I felt a knot somewhere in my middle section begin to loosen.

We talked some more--the usual travel talk about places and people--and then the coup de grace to my reticence about being there: This woman has had a brain hemorrhage. She nearly died and now she lives with a tube in her head. At any time it could clog. Having survived death once and living with its spectre every day, she lives each day as we are meant to: grateful and exuberant in celebration of the everyday things.

The last of the reservations hovering somewhere between my shoulder blades vanished. I smiled a big smile and promised that if we were ever in Arbroath we would surely visit. I told them where to find our farm. I don't know where Arbroath is, but it is nice to know I have friends there. I will also never look at B and Bs the same way again.


At 4:29 PM, Blogger Heather L. said...

I so enjoyed hearing about your stay in the B&B! I always loved getting a chance to stay in a B&B, but I also agreed with your description about staying with an aunt!!! (Very accurate!)

I'm thinking I just read about Arbroath in the newly out book "The Guynd" which is a memoir about an American who lived in Arbroath for 10 years while married to a Scot. Unforunately, rather than be about life in Scotland, the book seemed mostly a justfication as to why she got a divorce. Oh well. I enjoyed it just for the good bits about Scotland

At 7:34 PM, Blogger TerriRainer said...

What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it!

:) Terri

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

it brought tears to my eyes when the B&B owner gave you the key. Generosity is so touching. Glad you had this experience.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Glad you liked the B and B description I thought maybe it would sound a bit harsh.
Yes, that book is about Abroath. When it first came out it cause quite a stir in and around Arbroath. I started the book but I found it kind of tedious. I will finish it but sometimes we make our own fun and I am sorry she could not manage to find it over here.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hey, TR, I am glad you enjoyed it. You really should come over here if you are going to write about here. The people are amazing.

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

I'm so glad you found comfort with strangers at such a stressful time!

I've had that same response to B&B's. But - I stayed at one on vacation a few years ago and found the key to my childrens' story - and writing it was the most fun I've had in years.

I tried again last summer, closer to home, and found the experience stilted. But - it was less a B&B - the owners had 3 w/i a few blocks, so it was more like a home full of strangers without a host. Odd and awkward.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hi, Hayden, I think that B and Bs must vary as much as people do, but you are right--without a host, it could not be the same. In that case, better an anonymous hotel.
Home now and settling into a routine again.


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