The Hostess With the Mostest . . .
I must hold my hand up to feeling a bit devoid of inspiration in this unfestive festive season, so, in a rare example of damesnet recycling, I’m exhuming a blog about a problem we probably wish we had this year: accommodating Christmas guests.
I sometimes wonder, especially at this time of year, what it’s like to be a guest in my house. I realise I can’t assume that it’s the comfortable, convivial experience I’m aiming for. This is where Robert Burns’s ‘giftie’ of seeing ourselves as others see us would come in handy, though the results might be rather distressing.
Not least because of the dreaded spare room. Now I think the bottom line as far as a spare room is concerned is that it should have a bed, a bedside light and a window covering of some sort. A friend of mine stayed in a spare room with no curtain or even the wherewithal to drape a blanket over the window. It was an old house and the window was set so low in the wall that any revellers returning from the pub who happened to glance up would have seen her in bed. My spare room has all the essentials, and books, a chair and a mirror besides; it’s just that it hasn’t been redecorated since it was occupied by a teenage boy. Enough said.
The other possible drawback is that it’s right next to the bathroom, which of course is convenient, but what I don’t know, and haven’t had the nerve to test out, because it would be, well, weird, is how audible from the spare room are the things that usually happen in a bathroom (with a loo in it, if you get my meaning).
On the other hand, audibility from the bathroom is essential if you are to have a decorous, yet unspoken queuing system for the bathroom. (Not quite so much of a problem for me as for everyone else, since given my horror of being a woman in a dressing gown, I make sure I get in first.)
No one has presented the challenges of festive seating as brilliantly as Julie Walters, as she ponders who to put on the Ali Baba basket, who on the ironing board and who on the tumpty, and how to offer suitable arrangements for an ailing relative: ‘If he don’t keep his knees up above his underpants, his buttocks cave in.’ It was so much easier when you could consign all the children to a little table in the corner, but they are starting to kick up a fuss about this now that they are in their 20s and 30s.
And all this is before you’ve even offered anyone anything to eat or drink. I’m not keen on having people in the kitchen while I cook as I get so distracted I don’t know what I’m doing, forget ingredients and make other silly mistakes like overloading the blender and spraying the kitchen with bright green pea soup. (On that occasion my chatty chum was so engrossed in her story she didn’t even notice.) I also suddenly see the cooker with fresh eyes: it’s no longer a noble, battle scarred old friend, source of thousands of fabulous dishes; it just needs a good clean.
It’s a wonder anyone ever crosses our threshold, really.