I bought 123 Pirie St in 1999. I liked the symmetricality of the house. My cousin used to flat across the road as a student and when I went to take him to the supermarket I used to stare at this house. The former owner, Thelma, was 94 when she sold it. It needed a lot of renovation as very little had been done – which was a mercy as the rooms had not been changed and spoilt.
The original plans are dated 1894. Three identical houses were built side by side at the top of Pirie St. Ten years later, in 1904, the tram tunnel was put through to Hataitai. It is now a bus tunnel.
I hadn’t thought of opening a B&B – but half way through renovating, I realised the house would have to make a living. Once I’d made the decision it seemed like something I’d been working up to all my life. Why would I have all that china and linen if I wasn’t planning to open a B&B?
I am a writer. I have written five books. One is a biography of Ettie Rout, which won a New Zealand Book Award. The others are oral histories: the best-selling Convent Girls, Sixties Chicks, In the Shadow of War: New Zealand WW1 veterans and It’s time we started telling these stories, about how survivors of family violence have shaped their own lives.
After serving breakfast, I mainly spend my days researching and writing. With a degree in history, I began my writing career as a reporter, and won awards for news and feature writing. But what I like best is speechwriting.
‘B&B lady’ sounds like a comic role, but for me it’s a wonderful balance with writing. It would be difficult to hear better stories than those told at my own breakfast table or meet more interesting characters than the people sitting there.
(My books are hard to get. They are all out of print. I buy up second hand copies – and could sell you one while you are here).