A guide to surviving house guests

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Here is an old Spanish proverb:
El huésped y el pez hieden al tercer día – Guests and fish stink on the third day.

It’s that time of year again the summer. Suddenly relatives, friends and hangers-on are in the phone and discussing their options for their summer holiday. Before you know it you are mumbling a phrase along the lines of “well what with the recession and everything, why don’t you come and stay with us for 2 weeks”.
You put the phone down and then admit to your better half what you have just done. “Uncle Fred and his 4 kids are coming to stay with us for 2 weeks” The shocked reply “I didn’t even know you had an Uncle Fred”. “Neither did I” you have to confess.

The 6 weeks before Uncle Fred and clan descend fly past but those weeks have given your wife the perfect excuse to get her ‘to do’ list completed.

  1. Wallpaper the BBQ
  2. Paint the whole house inside and outside white.
  3. Repair the cracked ceiling above her side of the bed

And so on…..

So I appreciate that for some of you this guide may be a little late, but here are some observations that may assist you to create some house rules in time for next years visitors.

Noise – last year my sister and her friend were flip-flopping up and down the stairs so loudly, the man outside digging up the street with a pneumatic drill complained he could not concentrate. Advise guests that wearing flip-flops/sandals inside is a health hazard as they may slip.
Don't shout to each other from ground floor to roof terrace. Spanish houses were not built by Barrat Homes. Our walls are 2 feet thick, if you can't see someone the chances is they won't hear you. It really will not kill you get off your bum and find them before asking them if they have seen your sunglasses.

Eating out and alcohol - I can not party every night like I could when I was younger. Unlike you I have to work in the morning, this is your holiday not mine.
Despite telling friends and family that we work here or are on pensions, they all have a notion that we sit around all day drinking Sangria. As much as we love the great selection of bars and restaurants in our town, we cannot afford to eat out every night. We are saving up for OUR holiday. All that said should our guests wish to buy us a meal or 3 to say thank you for putting them up, we will gladly go to the best restaurant and get uproariously drunk with them.

Our house is your house – this thinly veiled expression really means ‘could you stop being so damn messy and stop treating it like a hotel’. The fact that they have put the salt back in the wrong cupboard may seem petty to your guests. The same goes for their kids pulling your cats tail, but if you’ve asked them not to do something there is usually a reason. After their trip to the beach we don't want our bath towels full of sand and thrown into the bath. Despite providing a mountain of beach towels to your guests and having the washing machine on all day to wash more you struggle to keep up with their towel requirements. In the morning when you are picking up their towels from their bedroom floor, I suggest you leave it there and stop yourself from folding it into a swan before putting it back on the bed.

Having given up half your house for your guests, why do they feel the need to fill the other half with inflatable lilos, dinghies and sharks? The statement “Well it is too hot to blow them up every day” gives you the perfect excuse to buy them a pump for their next Christmas present.
On a final house-related note, if you have Sky TV in more than one room, hide the remote controls apart from the one in which you are watching. Recently my nephew switched on the Muppet show whilst I was watching the BBC Parliament channel and it was 20 minutes before I realised. So forget watching Poirot revealing the murderer if little Johnny needs an urgent fix of SpongeBob Squarepants. 

Swimming pool - When we ask our guests to use the shower before using the pool, yes we really do mean every time. Unless they would like stay another month to try and restore the pool to blue and skim off all the sun tan lotion floating on the top of the water.

General information – we need to remember that to a non-resident of Spain being able to say ‘Dos cervezas por favor’ makes you fluent in the lingo. So be prepared to have to explain to the chemist that little Johnny has a jippy tummy and feels a bit ‘weird’. To your guests your ability to communicate will give you a God-like status that gives you the ability to control the weather. In the event of a cloud appearing over you and your sun bed you need to make it clear that it is not your fault. We are not God. We are there to supply free board and lodgings, an endless supply of towels, but not perfect weather. By perfect I mean of course the weather that is not too hot (“how can I sunbathe in that heat for 2 weeks?) Too humid (“it gets on little Johnnies chest”) Too windy (“the wind kept blowing the pages of my book”) too cloudy (“we could have stayed in England to see clouds”) etc.
A couple of years ago some people staying at a friends house nearby to ours asked me if the church bells ringing incessantly meant there was a storm coming. What I should have done was shouted “yes” and ran away screaming.

I know this may read like I do not like my friends and family. Of course I do. So why is it that spending 7 days with my relatives makes me want to kill them? When your guests have gone however, you know you will feel guilty about those evil thoughts. This guilt is the reason you said “of course you can stay with us” in the first place. And so the cycle continues.....

One rule I am seriously considering applying next year is a 7-day maximum stay.  That way I am more likely to stay out of prison after committing manslaughter. 

Andy Wilkes

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