When someone holds a hot glue gun to your crotch and makes an unsavoury joke it usually doesn’t end well. The average person may think ‘how did this happen?’ Not to worry though, it’s just my Mum in the kitchen and we’re making fairy costumes.
We had been booked for the Burnley Literature festival. We were going to be telling stories to local families. The brief asked for ‘woodland fairies.’ My mum’s immediate response was ‘Do they know I’m short, fat and nearly 60?’ I was surprised she’d said her real age. She went from 46 to 48 and forgot about 47 one birthday. Ever since her late 50’s she’d been trying to reclaim 47. I attempted to explain to her that wasn’t how it worked but she’s Glaswegian and often holding a glue gun. Some things are best left alone.
We got on the train dressed as fairies, our outfits complete with flowers laced through our Doc Martens. The venue was a giant inflatable toadstool, the more we stared at it the more phallic it became. It only stayed inflated for the amount of time it took for 2 kids to get in through the narrow zip up door, which meant as the other people were squeezing in it actually deflated on the kids. Screaming happened. People got annoyed but we’re fairies, who could be angry at fairies? Turns out all of Burnley can.
We’d had a brilliant day full of laughs but we were shattered. Good job I’d booked a lovely little guest house for my mum and I to stay in. I thought I’d treat her so we could have some proper time together.
The guest house was only a few minutes walk away so off we set on the short journey, still dressed like fairies. We got a few odd looks but we didn’t really care. All we wanted was a lie down and a cup of tea.
We arrived at the Guest house and I got a strange feeling in my tummy. It didn’t look as cute as it did online. Had I made a mistake?
It was 5.30pm when we knocked on the door. An emaciated woman with a strong North East accent answered the door. She asked us how long we wanted a room for. ‘One hour? 2 hours?’ I was a bit confused and looked at my mum. ‘The whole night please’ her eyes widened. ‘We’ve booked a room, the name’s Ilaria’ ‘ahh okay girls. Someone has just left your room’.
She gestured for us to come in. She made us a coffee that worrying tasted of salt and asked us to wait on the stairs. ‘I’ll go up and clean your room now. I’ll just be a minute’ she said. ‘TAKE YOUR TIME’ my mum quickly shouted.
A young girl with what sounded like she had pleurisy told us how she was in charge of making sure the pillow cases are clean. Lovely. She asked how we knew each other. When I told her we were mother and daughter she said ‘You could make a fortune tonight.’ I was confused and then the penny dropped. My mum clocked my expression and said ‘bloody hell love, have you only just worked it out?’
You could book rooms by the hour. Surely this wasn’t a knocking shop. No place for someone dressed as a fairy and her mother. What had I done?
We were put in a room that felt like the inside of an ashtray. We sipped on our salty coffees as parts of our soul shrivelled up and died. Sod this we thought. Let’s go out for dinner. We walked around the streets nearby in the pouring rain, still in our fairy outfits. With rumbling tummies all we could see were 1 star hygiene rated places. We spotted a man so far past the point of drunk he was trying to cook a frozen pizza with a lighter. The odd thing was that it wasn’t actually the first time I’d seen that particular culinary technique. Living in the north is very colourful.
The strange thing about Burnley was that everywhere closes at 6 o’clock. It suddenly turns into a ghost town and the only things available to eat are from the newsagent. The good thing about being a grown up is if you want crisps for tea then no one will stop you. I’d rather it was a choice though. We went into a newsagent and picked up a big bag of Poland’s answer to Wotsits. As a kid a giant bag of crisps would be my absolute dream and would be up there in things to make me ecstatically happy. Right now, stood there with wet hair and fairy wings I thought what a fool I was. Sometimes the things we want are not the things we need. What I need is to not be spending the night in a knocking shop with my mum and a bag of cheese balls.
We headed back to the guest house. We heard terrible things, we smelt scary things. We walked up creaky steep stairs to our ashtray room. Nothing works from the door handle to the window. A pair of knickers hung from the radiator and a very worn pair of slippers with the words ‘sexy mofo’ embroidered on the front sat at the end of one the beds. These items did not belong to me so they made me feel very uneasy being in the room so casually. This is something I hate. When I stay somewhere or move into a new house I don’t want there to be any trace of the previous occupant. I moved into a flat years ago and found a miniature sand timer and nail scissors in the kitchen drawer. I knew instantly that the previous occupant liked to cut their toenails in a set time frame whilst cooking. I shouldn’t know that.
Back in the knocking shop there was a canvas on the wall with ‘dance like no one’s watching’ printed on the front with a cat holding a balloon. That cat knows sod all but still somehow seemed to be laughing at us ‘you thought you’d stay in a cosy quaint guest house with your mum? Haha, enjoy your Polish cheese balls, bitch.’ Every where we walked to in the room I could see the cat’s eyes looking back at me. Like one of those spooky Victorian paintings where the eyes follow you. Smug twat.
Even the bathroom told a story. It smelt of stale cigarette smoke and old spice. It surprised me to see this was an air freshener so the scent was a deliberate choice.
We got into our pyjamas and decided that the best thing was to put the lights out. The smell would still be there but at least our eyes would be spared. I wriggled around to get comfy but my mattress was covered in plastic. For easier wiping perhaps? I was relieved at the wipe-ability but It sounded like I was sleeping on a giant crisp packet.
I stopped wriggling. Ahh, silence.
And then the builders started drilling downstairs.
We both laughed loudly.
‘You’ll have to put this in your book of stories ma wee toots’ my mum said.
We giggled ourselves to sleep.
Thank goodness I have my book of stories. Without it I probably would’ve cried. If I’d have stayed there with anyone other than my mum it wouldn’t have made me laugh. Without her I’d never go with the flow. She makes me chase the stories.
Thank you Mummy.
3 thoughts on “The Burnley ‘Guest House’”
Oh Beautiful Burnley…. I’ve never been but you’ve just transported me to a somewhat bizarrely romantic version of the place, I’d feel like I havent lived if I didn’t go there now. Brilliant, thank you Mi’Lady ;o) XX
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haha! Beautiful indeed, it’s surrounded by nature and green hills, full of characters! I’ve filmed a few of my stories. How are you all doing in these strange times? x
I didn’t know we had a literature festival, I’d have put it on my todo list then got back to my pigeons.