Hans immediately removes his shirt and jumper, flexing his muscles in a vest, and kicks off his shoes, vaults over the back of the sofa and plonks his feet on the coffee table. Rita looks embarrassed. We share a glass of wine together, and I realise all is not well between them. Their body language is odd. He sits too close for comfort to her, and she moves away. He then moves slightly closer and she withdraws, till she is practically falling off the sofa. After showing them where everything is, I escape to bed.
The following morning I ask if everything is OK in their room. A silence descends. “No, it was awful, I try to sleep in your living room, but she say ‘no, I must ask you first,’” Hans tells me, making coffee.
My heart sinks. Is the bed uncomfortable? Rita, who has just had a shower, gathers her towel around herself. “No. I cannot sleep with this man. All night he wants sex. I have told him again and again, that because of his philandering I have nearly killed myself with sorrow.
I spent two years crying and not eating. All I could do was read Proust and weep on the couch.” Ouch.
“What can I do?” pleads Hans. “I am very highly sexed. I need sex two or three times a day. If I do not have, I must go bouldering.”
Rita catches my look. “It is a sport. You climb over large boulders in a field. It is exhausting.”
“So,” he continues, “I can sleep in the living room? On a cushion maybe, or you have another mattress?”
I mumble that it would be uncomfortable and inconvenient. I watch as he cooks himself three fried eggs and then decorates with slices of apple, which he takes from the gigantic plastic box they’ve lugged all the way from Germany. I find myself affronted – “we do have fruit in England, you know,” I mutter under my breath.
I’m also astounded and embarrassed by the uncalled for personal information. I later realise in my hosting experiences that this is common – it’s the same reason people confide in hairdressers, or strangers on a train. It’s the lure of the confessional with people that you’re not involved with.
Hans continues, “I cannot sleep with this woman, without having sex, so I must sleep elsewhere,” he says, “So if not in the living room…I sleep with you, yes?”
“Tea, anyone?” I venture nervously.
Hans takes the hint and beetles off on his mountain bike, doubtless to relieve the, umm, tension, and Rita and I share coffee. She shows pictures of their two children who look enchanting with rosy cheeks and sturdy, chubby legs.
“I agreed to this week in England, for the sake of the children, who long for us to be together. But truly, the man is impossible!”
I make vague murmuring noises, mentally making a shopping list and wondering if the milk will last (they both take enormous amounts in their coffee) and have I got enough bread?
My mind snaps back when I hear Rita say the following: “Hans has slept with nearly all my girlfriends, and even tried to kiss my mother. I think he has a serious problem, but truly, I cannot help him, and besides, in my work, I am an experimental industrial photographer, I have met another man. Josef. He is lovely and the children like him, but Hans, he is not so keen…”
Well, he wouldn’t be, would he?
I borrow an air mattress from a friend to put in their room and, with great satisfaction, hear Hans expending some of his excess energy blowing it up. Rita shows me her pictures of German industrial photography and her new lover back in Germany. Just as good looking as Hans, but he doesn’t go bouldering. Yet.
There are many ways to make money from your spare room.
Airbnb has 45,000 properties in the UK alone and operates in 181 countries and in 12,663 cities. But there’s also Homestay, Rentaroom and Spareroom.com. Thousands of us in Sussex are becoming landlords and landladies. However, despite verifications and reviews, there can be some surprises for the unwary host…