Reluctant Hotelier

The sound of the surf is my background music. I don’t always hear it. Life and living and answering the phone gets in the way of listening sometimes. I have found my voice. Literally. And after five years of not using it that much, it wears a little thin now and then; too much talking hoarse. Who’d have thought: an hotelier. Of sorts. Do ten bedrooms count as a hotel?

Did you sleep well?

What are you going to do today?

Anything I can help with?

Shall I order you a cab?

Mostly my guests are wonderful, wowed by their – my – view. Only occasionally does the irksomeness of cold water, very tired linen or the geckos that scuttle the walls irritate. Some think hard before coming up with a complaint: couldn’t you have organized a better sunrise? Or, why can’t you turn off the sun a little later?  Some break all the rules. Dorcas haggles her room rate on the phone, ‘next door it is cheaper’, she says. I am insistent, ‘if you don’t want to pay my prices’, I tell her politely, ‘you can always go next door’. ‘I do not want to go next door’, says Dorcas. Then think about it I suggest. Politely.   Dorcas calls back two days later and tells me, ‘I have thought, I will pay your price’. She comes for three days and when she checks out she pays next door’s prices anyway. It’s her turn to be insistent, ‘you told me this price’. I didn’t. But the customer is always right. Even when they aren’t. Dorcas says it’s a very nice place and she will be back next month.   Somehow I don’t think we’ll have availability next month.


Sometimes I have to say Sorry. Mostly I smile.


I smile less at the fundis though. Renovating what will be home, building what will be my studio. Where, I demand of Omari, where (louder and more emphatic) are my windows? The ones I made a downpayment for three weeks ago and which were promised within one. Omari launches into (yet) another story. But I am not interested and stalk away. Unsmiling. Omari doesn’t care; he laughs at the Reluctant Memsahib, Reluctant Hotelier, really, really Reluctant Builder.


So to wash away the sweat – literal, metaphorical – I take to the sea. This evening the tide is dragged low, low, the hide water that threw a plague of blue sting-in-their tails Portuguese Men of War up so that I dared not enter the water for three days has receded and left in its wake a tideline frilled with seaweed and dyed blue. I am not sorry to witness the sandy demise of the bubbled critters that kept me from my swim. I step into jellyfishfree seas gratefully.


The sun is sinking and the sky is fading and the dogs gambol, Pili has acres of Africa and Indian Ocean spilling conspiratorially all around her so that she doesn’t’ know where to begin: a crab? A coconut husk? A wave? A bird. She makes me laugh. And Africa, all gilded and soft and syrupy as the sun slides behind the Shimba Hills, slips into the Best Time of the Day.


I gather up the dogs and head home, dip my feet into the footbath – Francesca, a French guest from the Congo, who found nothing at all to complain about and paid her dues – gathered up eggyolkyellow Frangipani to float in hers each morning – to rinse my soles of my beach walk and fetch myself a beer to drink. With my new view.


Pili collapses in a damp and sandy heap and soon is fast asleep, with the occasional whimper of a dream; she has caught her crab.

I smile.

And the surf applauds.


29 Responses to “Reluctant Hotelier”

  1. Kit Says:

    Wow complete contrast to outpost life, no wonder your voice is feeling rusty! Lovely to have the ocean right there to wade into any time.

  2. Natacha Says:

    I cannot believe that you are really living there! It all sounds so exciting. I am jealous (although Luxembourg is a lovely place to live too).

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you Natacha – it is – exciting. sometimes frustrating, sometimes worrying but then all new adventures are …

  3. guineapigmum Says:

    Sounds so beautiful! I promise I wouldn’t haggle if I could come and stay on the beach. Are your studio windows going to have a view ofthe sea? And I love the new header.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      come and stay guineapigmum, love guests that don’t haggle. yes, my studio and office will have a view of the sea. I’ll post a picture once I’m in there … oddly enough, windows going in today. x

  4. janerowena Says:

    What an amazing place for your children to come home to. Good luck – I would be there like a shot if we didn’t have school fees shackling us for the next few years.

  5. robyn Says:

    wow-tough sharing such a lovely place with others…sometimes…the bad guests anyway!to me-it sounds bliss-all of it-think I would like that as my life-my job. Would love to stay…I promise, no haggling!

  6. Mud Says:

    Wow. I want to stay too. But only as a good guest, who’d buy you a drink and not haggle at all.

  7. Iota Says:

    Oh, how very YOU! Yes, yes, a hotelier. Perfect, perfect. I couldn’t have guessed, but now I know, it seems just right. Yes, yes, yes.

    You know, there are lots and lots of blogs these days doing a daily photo. Could you start one to do that? You would have lots of subject matter, and it would all feed my need for a daily shot of the exotic.

    I’m coming to stay. One day.

  8. Muddling Along Says:

    It sounds lovely (well apart from the building) – I am sitting at my desk daydreaming of walking down your beach and enjoying your lovely view – bliss

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    you must all come and stay. a bloggy beach party? no?

    janerowena, I empathize; those fees … but they grow up those wee ones and then there’s a little left in family coffers to travel. if modestly! and this is a modest place, though less modest, obviously, than Dorcas assumed!

    robyn, as they used to say in tanzania, karibu – you’re welcome.

    mud: I’ll buy YOU a drink. I’ll fetch a cold one from my fridge and we’ll sit on the verandah and drink – views and vino.

    Iota – what a good idea: the photo, let me get my camera out … I walked to the back today, up in the bush and saw a thousand spider webs stringing the grass against the sun, like gauze. beautiful. and come and stay. do.

    Muddling Along – yes the building marginally less lovely than the view, but when it all gets too much, I turn my back and breathe deep.

  10. Family Affairs Says:

    What a beautiful view. Congratulations. You sound happy Lx

  11. Iota Says:

    Forgot to say, the sound of surf is somehow my background music too, though of my 47 years, I’ve only spent 6 living by the sea. I miss it, though.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      It’s such an extraordinary thing isn’t it Iota – when we were littleand on holiday at the beach we were instructed to put a big shell to our ears to hear the sea. I was always entranced that the sound when with me, all the way back to the farm …

  12. Almost American Says:

    Oh – I would love to visit! But seeing as that’s unlikely, a daily photo would be lovely!

  13. Lily Says:

    I have followed your adventures silently from afar, peering through the telescopic lens of the internet into your world… and though I have never even shaken your hand I am so intrigued by your exotic adventures and gasped when I read of this place by the sea you call home and hotel! Thank you for sharing and best of luck…I’ll be reading over your shoulder! How I’d love to come and stay one day!

    • Carol Says:

      Cool to see you are writing again. Do a daily photo (but it WILL make everone envious). Well done for all of it – and I’m looking forward to coming to stay! Lots of love

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      ‘peering through the telescopic lens of the internet’; I love that Lily and thank you for dropping in and saying something because it led me to your space – what beautiful, beautiful images and such lovely words I found.

      Thank you Carol – and I look forward to having you and your brood here too x

  14. Ellie Says:

    Oh my. Such a change in your life and path, and yet how wonderful it looks from here in the iced-in American Middle-West! It looks like a simply wonderful place to come and stay, oh to have the ocean at one’s door ….

  15. Rob Says:

    Time to start saving the pennies so.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      indeed Rob, you never came to the Outpost (and I can quite undertand why) but here … ummmm less easy to find an excuse here! x

  16. guineapigmum Says:

    Perhaps we could all come and stay together? A Bloggers Meet by the sea.Sigh.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      absolutely guineapigmum. why not. what a story that would be … i have the space and at least am now a little more accessible than I was …

  17. Deirdre Says:

    You sound so happy – I’m glad! And I’m glad that you are back! This is my first comment here after reading you for a few years now and I was sorry when you said you’d quit; I kept your link alive anyway, just in case … I’m glad I did.

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