Living out her dreams
Stephanie Hill is not ashamed to say a lot of people have slept with her over the years, or at least in her beds.
Roman centurions, lords and ladies, musicians — they've all been guests at the bed and breakfast she ran in Somerset, England.
“Over the six years I ran The Plaine Guesthouse, I probably had 8,000 people stay with us,” said Ms Hill, who lived in Bermuda from 1990 until 2006.
She's written about her adventures in a book, Come Sleep With Me — Adventures in Bed and Breakfast Land.
She hopes to have an official launch here, once it's released in April.
She bought The Plaine with her ex-boyfriend very shortly after leaving the island.
“My partner and I had been thinking about starting a bed and breakfast,” the 53-year-old said. “I was at a rugby game in Bath.
“I looked around and thought, ‘This is beautiful, why not here?'.”
When they stumbled onto the charming, wisteria-covered guesthouse in Norton St Phillip, they knew they had found the right place.
It had been their fantasy to buy a red aircraft and fly around the world, following the adventures of famous aviators.
“The place was called The Plaine and the sign was red, perfect.”
Ms Hill imagined herself running the guesthouse, living the life of Riley.
“I thought perhaps I would be sitting with my feet up by noon with a gin and tonic and a Labrador retriever by my side,” she said. “The harsh reality was, it was a 24/7 job. I never got a break.”
One of the more challenging times was when her father, Derek Hill, became seriously ill and she had to work through it.
“No guest at a bed and breakfast wants to know there is anything wrong,” she said. “You have to put a smile on all the time. That can be very difficult.”
Still, the guesthouse was great fun and she met many wonderful people, the most unusual probably being teachers who dressed as Roman centurions to educate students about history.
“They went out the front door in the morning in full dress,” she said. “There was a lady walking her dog across the street who almost jumped out of her skin.”
Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and his wife Jane were also guests. The rock star turned out to be quiet and unobtrusive.
“He, of course, was a totally cool dude who rocked up with snakeskin cowboy boots, a battered old brown leather bag in his hand and wild windswept hair which, when moved out of his eyes, revealed a kind, weathered brilliant face with an air of mischief all around him,” she wrote in her book.
It started out as a column for an online magazine.
“It was a bit of commentary on life in the world of bed and breakfasts,” she said. “Gradually, I realised there was more to it and wanted to make it into a book.
“Deciding which of my adventures to include and which ones to leave out was probably the most difficult part.”
With no experience, she was sometimes overcome by insecurity during the writing process.
“It has taken me years to do this,” she said. “I thought my ramblings weren't going to be very interesting to anyone.”
But she shared the manuscript with a friend, a professor emeritus at Bath University.
“He kindly went through every single word and gave me some feedback,” she said. “I went away and tweaked where he suggested. I thought things through and moved chapters around.”
When she was finally done, she sent her manuscript to seven publishers.
She was surprised when, several months later, she got a positive response from three.
“I accepted the first offer I got, from The Book Guild,” she said. “I felt euphoric when I got an e-mail saying they wanted to publish my book.
“It meant they found my work not only engaging but good enough to be published. That was an amazing feeling.”
Initially from the Midlands, she came to Bermuda in 1990 after a bad bike accident.
She'd been planning a trip around the world.
“It was my birthday,” she said. “I'd just given my notice at work and was trotting up to London on my bike for a birthday party when a car hit me. “I badly broke my leg and had to have it completely rebuilt.”
It took her three years to fully recover. When she was finally well, she booked a two-week vacation here.
“I ended up staying for 16 years,” said Ms Hill, who was last here in July. “Bermuda is my spiritual home.”
While here, she married and divorced, worked at the Robin Hood Pub and Restaurant, painted houses and ran an event management company, Morpheus.
“I also did laughter workshops — one of my passions — and business coaching,” she said. “I helped small businesses in Bermuda get better and bigger and helped their team achieve their goals.”
She now offers confidence coaching workshops in Bath. In her spare time she loves to travel.
“In the last year I've been to Uganda and Madagascar,” she said. “Last year I randomly bought an Airbnb in the south of France in the Languedoc region.
“So far, we've had a host of people stay there. It's turning out to be a lot easier than running a bed and breakfast.”
She's considering writing another book, but isn't quite sure what it will be about.
“The travels of my dog Harry might be quite interesting,” she laughed.
• Stephanie Hill's website: www.grin-and-tonic.com