“Some people are the perfect house guests. They arrive on time, bearing carefully-chosen gifts, regale you with amusing anecdotes, wash-up, make their own beds and leave early in the morning. Others invite themselves, come late (or early), only remember to warn you of their food intolerances as you’re putting plates of lovingly-prepared but unsuitable food in front of them, loll nonchalantly – while drinking your best wine and boring on about their lives – as you clear up around them, and leave their room looking like a bomb site. The difference between the paragon and the pest is that with the former, your only memory of their visit is of laughter and entertainment, and with the latter, you’re working to erase both the physical detritus and your feelings of irritation for days afterwards.
The true house guest from hell, however, is the one that does all of the above and then doesn’t know when to leave. As the expression goes, ‘visitors, like fish, stink in three days’. If you are the visitor, follow an easy code of behaviour to avoid forever queering your pitch with hospitable friends.
Confirm both times of arrival and times of departure well before you’re due to show up. Bring a present, not necessarily flashy, but thoughtful – for example, a single- malt if you know it’s their particular tipple. Keep the physical evidence of your presence in their house to a minimum and tidy up after yourself. Above all, leave exactly when you said you would: too early and it looks like you’re trying to escape, too late and you’ve outstayed your welcome. Once you’re home, send a handwritten note thanking your hosts for their hospitality.
If you’re the welcoming host, you will deserve to have this perfect house guest if you do your bit – putting flowers into a tidy spare room with fresh sheets and not making too big a deal about cooking extra meals. Don’t be a martyr, accept offers of help, and resist the urge to celebrate as soon as their car is out of sight – just in case they forget their wellies and turn back …”