Welcome to The Hotel Helifornia

Since I moved to London, I’ve suddenly become far more popular then I ever have been.

Unfortunately for me, the move hasn’t made me more charismatic, hilarious or improved my after-dinner speech skills. People like me more due to the fact my sofa is cheaper than a hotel on the South Bank.

It seems every other week I get a phone call, a text or a Facebook message (how web 2.0) exclaiming excitedly that someone I know is coming to visit London!

I’ve since learnt there are two main ways of blagging a (sofa)bed for the night. The proactive friend just asks if they can kip here. The non-proactive friend will say something along the lines of: ‘Oh, I don’t really know where I’m staying yet’, often accompanied by a wink and a nudge. Thank you Captain Obvious. Just ask next time.

If I’m feeling particularly generous, and I don’t want to see a friend squirming, I’ll offer them a place when they say they’re coming down. I used to sofa-surf myself, so I know what it’s like, and some of my friends actually come down just to see me. Astonishing, I know.

I’m now a queen of cooked breakfasts. I don’t even ever cook myself breakfast. I’m so good at fry-ups, that I could get a job in a trucker’s stop on the M25, picture me wearing a gingham apron and having a cigarette dangling precariously from my chapped lips.

As for dinners, well, I really like cooking, and constantly cooking for one starts to wear quite thin, especially when you have to eat tacos for three nights in a row to use up all your ingredients. So I find it quite refreshing when I get to cook for two. But when it becomes three, or four – including one fussy child – and a man who happens to be gluten-lactose-fructose-sucrose-life intolerant, with an allergy to tomatoes, then I’m afraid that’s when I give the job to my good friends at the local Chinese takeaway.

Running a crèche appears to be a vital part of the job of hotelier too. Owing to space limitations, one weekend I gave up my bedroom, so my friends and their eight-year-old could have a bit of room, while I took the sofabed. I was woken at 8.30am by a hyperactive child asking if I would play Scrabble with him.

Now, being the literary word-smithery type I am, I’d use any excuse to break out the Scrabble board, especially for a whimsical member of our future generation. Except, it would seem, at 8.30 on a Sunday morning, whilst his parents slept soundly, in my very comfortable bed.

Being a hostess, concierge, child-minder, tour guide, chef and cleaner all-in-one gets pretty exhausting, and sometimes you forget about your role as a friend.

I’m no Basil Fawlty, but at the same time, my north London house isn’t the Ritz, so here at the Hotel Helifornia, you really can check out any time you like: and you can also leave.

Image by geishaboy500 courtesy of Flickr

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