I arrived in Hobart in 1981 to teach drama at the University. That first week in July I strolled around Battery Point looking for a house to buy and fell in love with the Victorian house on the corner of Colville and Mona Streets. It was quite unsuitable for a woman on her own having six rooms that went off the hall and another two at the back. The house became mine thanks to the Commonwealth Bank and circumstances conspiring to make the timing for a loan application perfect. The Tasmanian government had directed banks to approve loans for the provision of tourist accommodation. Brian Yost, a sympathetic manager ahead of his time, approved the loan for a woman with no assets except her salary, on the condition the house became accommodation for tourists. So Colville Cottage, the alliteration being more enticing to guests than Mona House, began a new life that lasted more than twenty years until it became a family home again.
There were pressures in those early days. Motels were gearing up for the burgeoning tourist industry so competition drove changes. Soon guests were not satisfied with a bathroom down the hall or rooms that were not heated and cooled. The licensing inspector, appointed to ensure the industry met certain standards, insisted that clothes drying on the lines be invisible.
‘Guests do not want to see your dirty washing,’ he said.
‘My washing is clean,’ I replied.
A lattice fence was erected around the laundry area to keep me out of trouble.
‘Your kitchen floor is not coved,’ he thundered on his next visit, sending me scurrying to the dictionary. And so the search for imperfection continued until I felt an accommodation licence would never be mine. Desperate, I phoned the Director of Tourism’s office.
‘What must I do to be perfect?’ I inquired. The Director himself came to morning tea, loved the old world ambience and granted an immediate accommodation licence.