I was very excited to have been asked to take part in Catherine Alliott’s blog tour. Her new book, My Husband Next Door (1st August, Trade paperback £12.99/ebook £7.99, Michael Joseph) was my introduction to Catherine’s books and very good it was too, (click here for my review.) In her guest post, exclusive to Novel Kicks, Catherine talks about her tips for having houseguests.
Top Tips for Having House Guests
1) I love having house guests but one or two ground rules need to be established before they stay, like for how long. A friend of my sons’ was still in his habitual spot at the kitchen table eating cereal as the taxi arrived to take us to the airport and thence the South of France. I fully expected to find Arthur still in the kitchen eating cereal on our return.
2) I fail miserably on this front but the correct response to “Can I bring anything?” is “Yes please” or, even better, “A pudding would be lovely “. Don’t, as the weekend approaches, sit on the kitchen floor and cry about how much there is to do, or kick the dog/ husband instead.
3) Some people start drinking the moment they cross the threshold and since we’ve already built up a head of steam and would hate to peak without them, we’re thrilled. More troubling are the “flinchers at the bottle” to borrow a splendid phrase. Should such a guest materialise and a frantic search of the larder reveals only a sticky bottle of Ribena circa 1998, jerk your head meaningfully at one of the teenagers to make haste to the village shop, ignoring assurances that “tap water will be fine!”
4) Visiting children tend to be on their best behaviour and no trouble at all. In fact these days some even suggest that they make you a gin and tonic and light your cigarette for you. The same, however, cannot be said for dogs. If a guest asks to bring a dog, swallow your disappointment and check it doesn’t chase chickens. “I’m not sure” means “Yes.” One Irish terrier appeared at the lunch table having clearly had tremendous fun with the poultry. Her owner leaped to her feet shrieking: “I didn’t know Billie could get such a big cock in her mouth!”
5) Still on dogs, owners swear blind they are housetrained, but they always get over-excited in a strange house and make unerringly for the Aubusson carpet in the drawing room – the only thing Aunt Marigold left you. As you trill “it couldn’t matter less!” and scrub away with a J cloth, suggest that Co-Co from Belgravia kips in the car for the night? As a look of horror crosses the owner’s face, agree that she can of course sleep by the Aga, but perhaps not on the spareroom bed where you’ve nervously noticed her velvet cushion has been placed.
6) Keep the fathers off the trampoline after Sunday lunch. We’ve been to A & E too often.
8) Likewise keep a dinner party book if you must. (You didn’t know they existed? They do). I found mine the other day. Clearly bought in a flush of young bridal enthusiasm twenty five years ago, a single entry records that on the 21st January 1989 I subjected eight people – who’s names, apart from my brother’s, mean nothing to me – to Chicken Marengo followed by pineapple cheesecake. The snowy white pages that follow suggest this wasn’t a resounding success.
9) Weekend guests always want to know how to leave the bed, which is lovely, but strippers are a bore. If they’ve stripped before you can shout “Leave it!” try not to mind. It means you can’t just flip the duvet, check the bottom sheet for watch springs and leave it for the next visiting teenager, but you’ll feel virtuous as you carry the pile of sheets down to be washed on Monday.
NB – I always change for grown ups. Standards must be maintained.
10) Even more about dogs. Hopefully your houseguests won’t fight after a long and intoxicating weekend, but your canine guests will. Just as when the children were young, your own dogs have to learn that a visiting dog can do no wrong and it is ALWAYS their fault. On no account put your hand into the teeth-gnashing fray, and if you must set about with the turquoise espadrille, make sure you only whack the home team.
NB – just like the dogs, you too will be tired and emotional and keen to see the back of your very dear friends, but on no account should you bite anyone.
11) A word about presents and recycling them, in particular, chocolates deemed Too Nice to scoff in front of Morse repeats. I recently took a recycled box of Charbonnet and Walker to a friend’s party and left them on the hall table. Unaware they were from me, she brought them back to my own dinner party three weeks later. The girl who’d originally given them to me was present. She told us she hadn’t bought them either. When we opened them, they were grey with age.
12) If you have very smart friends they might leave a tenner on the bedside table for your Daily. Resist the temptation to hoover it up yourself, muttering darkly about there only being one person who does any REAL work around here, and threaten any teenagers who loiter knowingly outside the spare room door. Instead, on Monday morning, pass the money on to the intended recipient, who will almost pass out with shock. Your warm glow will last about twenty seconds.
Tomorrow, head along to Chick Lit Chloe for more exclusive content.