Kind of a Fawlty Towers weekend, but also tragic.

I have a very dear friend Kevin. We met when I was 27 and he was 17 – at the old convict gaol, East Sydney Technical College – studying Day Matriculation for the Leaving Certificate in 1964. He went on to study Law at Sydney University and I studied Psychology at University of N.S.W.

Kevin’s law firm did a lot of pro bono work for First Nation clients and the sexually complicated, in particular transvestites and sex change clients. Not your usual law firm, lots of heart.

Kevin had a client who was a closet gay and had contracted AIDS. He was married with four little children and when he was diagnosed he decided to live out his dream, which was to own and run a hotel in the country. So he sold the family home and bought a large white elephant: a run-down hotel in the Blue Mountains.

It needed a huge amount of work and money to renovate and make liveable, the electricity generators were not working properly, the taps produced brown water, and there was visible mould together with a mouldy smell.

The client died not long afterward and his young widow was left with this mausoleum. Kevin rallied the troops and 10 or 12 of us descended on the place on the Christmas in July weekend.

The beds were lopsided and uneven with broken mattress springs. Nothing worked. The dinner was slices of corned beef from the deli put into a white sauce. The only wine was sweet – perhaps Sauterne, but I think it was something even sweeter – from a cask.

There was a nuclear family staying there – mum, dad, young girl and boy. The rest of the guests had booked for a gay male Christmas-in-July party and were twittering and flickering around in fancy dress.

It was pretty much a disaster, the only light relief being the story that follows this one.

We had contributed something to the sorry mess, but Kevin told me later that the young wife had contracted AIDS and died.