Homosexual couples have besieged a Christian-run guesthouse with demands for double rooms, seemingly in a bid to destroy the business.
It follows last week’s high profile court ruling ordering Peter and Hazelmary Bull to pay £3,600 in damages to a homosexual couple who sued because double rooms were restricted to married couples.
Mrs Bull, 66, has also received abusive and menacing phone calls, but she cannot ignore the phone because her 71-year-old husband has been critically ill in hospital.
Even the hospital has had to deal with nuisance phone calls, leading staff to operate a password system for friends and family to enquire after Mr Bull’s health.
The guesthouse is teetering on the brink of financial ruin. But Mrs Bull has yet to tell her husband Peter about recent developments, for the sake of his current fragile health.
As in previous years, the guesthouse is closed from Christmas to Easter. When it reopens the Bulls may be faced with some tough choices.
In the first case of its kind, the judge ruled that a homosexual civil partnership should be treated like a marriage in the provision of goods and services.
As the judge was handing down his decision, Mr Bull was undergoing major heart surgery. He suffered complications and was sedated for two days, but is now recovering in hospital.
“On Tuesday night, no sooner had I returned to Chymorvah from the hospital than the phone was ringing,” Hazelmary said. “I didn’t even have time to take my coat off.
“I’m not a prude, but I’ve been shocked and hurt by the language used. One told me I was an abomination and would go straight to hell.
“I couldn’t even switch the phone off in case the hospital needed me. I had one man call, saying he and his gay partner wanted a room.
“I explained we were closed until Easter and got a load of bad language before he hung up. While he was ranting and raving, I just wanted to ring the hospital.
“We’ve also had emails from people claiming to be gay couples, saying: ‘Of course, if you reject this booking, you will be acting illegally.’
“That night, I hardly slept because Peter was so poorly. I had the phone beside me waiting to hear if they were taking Peter back to surgery, then the obscene phone calls started first thing in the morning.
“These people know nothing about me or my lifestyle, and I’ve been astounded by their cruelty. It is hard not to feel persecuted.”
The guesthouse is also the couple’s home. If the business closes, they will lose a house that they have poured their hearts, lives and savings into for 25 years.
Mrs Bull said: “I don’t want to tell Peter. I want to hold back for a little while, because he’s so ill. He doesn’t know because the hospital has kept him sedated for two days.
“The uncertainty of the future would take Peter down. He doesn’t cope well with stress.
“I feel so upset. I don’t want us to leave Chymorvah like this. It feels like we are being driven out.
“We have put everything into it and if we lose it we’ll be left with nothing. We’ll have no money to buy a new home and who will give us a mortgage at our age?”
“Peter was airlifted to hospital on New Year’s Eve when he became ill and I believe the stress of this case exacerbated his condition,” added Hazelmary.
“I would have been at his side during surgery, but news on Monday afternoon that the judgment was about to be delivered came out of the blue.
“I spoke to Peter on the phone that day. We said a lot of personal things, because this was a big operation, and prayed together.
“He felt very upset that he couldn’t be there with me. He sees himself as a protector and provider, and felt he was letting me down.
“I said I wished I could have the operation for him and he said: ‘Actually, I think I’d rather be here.’ That’s how stressful this has been for him.
“Monday was frantic with my worrying about Peter and leaving everything to drive through the night to get to Bristol for the judgment.
“When I arrived at court, I would have been out of my mind if it had not been for my faith. I prayed for strength to help me deal with whatever challenges lay ahead.
“When the judgment was delivered, I was disappointed, but I can’t help feeling this isn’t over yet.
“There are many people in Britain, Christian or not, who are very worried about being told what to believe in their own homes.”
She added: “This has never been a personal battle with Mr Hall and Mr Preddy. They were always going to feel the way they did and we were always going to feel the way we did.
“So is there a human rights charter out there which respects the feelings of us all? That’s what’s really on trial.”