When friends and family come to visit, I have fantasies of inviting them into my beautiful, idyllic cottage. I imagine that I will have finished all the decorating, there will be fresh flowers in the guest bedroom, home-made bread will be rising in the Aga, I will have completed my over-ambitious gardening project so we can all have civilised drinks on the breakfast terrace, I will wow everyone with my home-made chutneys and apple pies using fruit grown by my very own hands, the bedding will be freshly laundered and ironed, the animals will behave impeccably well, etc, etc.
This is no way ever reflects the reality.
What happens is this:
My guests are always parked up and waiting on the driveway for me to arrive home, because I am so rudely late. So I hare through the gate, slipping on the rotten apples (that I have failed yet again to pick up), full of apologies, which they cannot hear because my over-sized, ridiculous hound is stood on her hind legs, pressed against the window, barking like hell unleashed, slobbering all over the glass and looking really fierce. The guests are bursting for the toilet (of course) so I wrestle with my front door, which, due to the house falling down no longer fits its frame, fall over the coats and shoes and unopened post, all the while being whooped and cheered on by Wally the parrot who is positioned at the end of the hall-way, open the inner front door and race up the stairs before everyone else to flush the toilet chain and check for loo-roll, picking up dirty
knickers clothes on the way. Then I slam the bedroom doors shut (best to hide the mess) and shout that they may now use the bathroom.
I do have a downstairs bathroom, but you have to be brave to use it. Placed on the back of the house as an afterthought, it looks like a Swedish sauna and I use it as a dumping ground for things such as a panel saw and disc-cutter. I am also scared of spiders so I have stopped opening the door incase there are some giant ones in there.
Then I survey the astonishing mess in my kitchen. I am lucky in that I have an enormous, plain-glass window across the width of the kitchen that looks directly onto rolling fields, I am always distracted by the beautiful views. The window is single pane and has gaps around the edges because the frame is rotten and therefore leaks and lets in a howling wind, but I love to look out of it. I do not know, I really don’t, how so much mess happens. I reckon the sheep pop in during the day and have a little party with the cattle and use all the crockery and cutlery to do so.
So I charge about the house, stuffing socks down the sides of the sofas, spraying air freshener and lighting candles to try to get rid of the distinctly pungent aroma of dog farts and stick the kettle on. Whilst the water is boiling, I decide to check the garden for dog poo and discover that yes, my dog does indeed shit at least ten times a day and no, the fairy has not been for the last week so the lawns resemble a training ground for landmine clearance. Hence, the second sight guests are greeted with is me, racing around with a horse poop-scoop and a black bin liner, picking up elephant sized crap in order for them to enjoy their tea or coffee outside, in the rural idyll. Guests then make their own tea/ coffee, they can see I have my hands full.
As the dog runs through her repertoire of party tricks for the visitors (wall of death around the garden, thorough search of their handbags followed by a smash and grab of an item from it, slobber on the most expensive trousers, loud fart, toy that has been left in the rain is rammed into someones crotch area, and so on) and I reassure everyone that the milk in their drink is supposed to have lumps in it, I usually start to admit defeat. Realisation dawns that my hosting skills have sadly not met my own expectations, I am not Kirsty Allsop or Nigella Lawson, Domestic Goddess, I am an optimist, not a realist.
Without rose-tinted glasses, what I and my guests are confronted with, is a house that looks like a tornado has recently ripped through it. Unkempt, apple and conker-littered lawns, bare, stripped walls with exposed plaster in the living room, no curtains (I hate them) or even rails for curtains to go on, an unholy mess in the kitchen, a conservatory that has been turned into a parrot playroom with a three-man sofa for the dog to lounge on, an avocado bathroom suite with test-patches of paint on each of the walls, mouldy window frames (I don’t know why I find that funny but I do), freezing cold because I cannot afford oil for the central heating, a beautiful Aga that is out of action because of the oil situation and a sad-looking Baby Belling that is borrowed to replace the Aga. There are mice in the house occasionally (I should probably stop feeding them pizza), and earwigs, beetles and spiders (hey, my house is literally in a field) and I will not have them killed, we all live in harmony. My animals are unruly (like my life), my laundry habits are hit and miss, carried out on a need-to-have basis (I only bought an iron and ironing board because one guest refused to visit unless I got one for him to use) and I like climbing mountains, even if they are made of clothes.
But I love entertaining, so I am free with my hugs and enthusiasm, the views are indescribeably perfect and beautiful and best of all, the carvery in the village is only £3.50 per head, so dinner is served!
The View from my Kitchen Window