We’ve had Friends to Stay this weekend. And there’s nothing like having Friends to Stay to learn more about yourself.
In that morning before they arrive when you’re urgently attending to the housework you’ll discover just how low your hygiene standards can fall and how capacious that space under your bed really is.
Of course, your very best friends, the one who shared a tent with you on a Cornish beach and know what you smell like after three days without a shower, or the ones who shared university accommodation with you and remember your ‘store it in the washing machine’ approach to domestic overspill, won’t care about the state of your home.
It’s the newbies you have to worry about. In particular, the ones who are doing so much better than you. You covet their under floor heating, personalised entry systems and cashmere throws.
Your very best friends will drink anything with you: cider, cheap wine or some fiery orange liqueur from a holiday you barely remember. But then you’ll have to cater for the friend who married the hedge fund manager and who now smiles weakly at anything costing less than £12 a bottle.
The thing is, the wine situation is easy to deal with. The German supermarkets do some great wines and even I can afford them. So that’s that.
Back to the housework.
Prepping the house for guests will remind you of innumerable rows with your partner:
“When was the last time anybody cleaned these bloody skirting boards?”
“Is it actually against your religion to clear your own hair out of the shower trap?”
“It was your idea to lay off the cleaner!” (Yes it bloody was. She was charging £14 per hour which was more than I was earning.)
“Three cats was always two cats too many!” (Wrong. It was three cats too many.)
And the killer: “If you hadn’t decided to take on a window cleaner with mental health problems and no actual window cleaning skills we wouldn’t be looking out through a film of filth!”
The thing about the window cleaner is that he does have mental health issues but he’s very kind and posts a note through the door to say that he’s not managing at the moment but that he’ll be round as soon as he’s got himself together.
The last one was four years ago.
There’s no way you can get the seventeen windows and three sets of patio doors cleaned in an hour.
Concentrate on the inside, right?
The most important room is obviously the one they’ll be staying in.
You will need to remove from this the additional clothes you’ve been hanging on the back of the door/over the bed frame or piled on the chest of drawers. The bed will need to be made with sheets you’ve actually ironed and then the whole thing will need to be covered with a dust sheet to protect from the superfluous cats.
Onto the bathroom. When you have friends whose bathrooms look like suites at Soho House, you will look around your guest bathroom with new eyes.
You will spot the thick layer of cobwebs in each corner of the ceiling, the dry, cracked soap bar (remember the zeal with which you threw out the plastic pump dispensers in a fit of eco evangelism) and the threadbare towels you’ve been left with since your children took the good ones to university with them.
There is little more you can do than make sure the taps are shiny and there’s a bottle of Matey on hand.
In the space between sorting the spare room and them actually arriving you will question others of your decisions.
Why, for example, did you knock out a wall to make the kitchen so big?
Why did you pooh-pooh your dad’s suggestion that you seal the travertine floor to make it easier to keep clean?
And what the hell is that stuff on the back wall of the fridge? Dare you inhale near it?
Why did you choose cream carpets for areas of heavy traffic against the advice of the carpet seller?
And why in the name of god did you agree to extra cats? Black ones?
By the time your guests arrive, you have fallen out with your partner, decided to put the house on the market and rehome the cats.
Get the bloody wine open, they’re here!