WARNING: BEING THE PERFECT HOSTESS MAY CAUSE some STRESS
Some people love entertaining guests. They enjoy their houses being full of friends and family. Others do not. They worry about other people's shoes bringing in dirt on their lovely cream carpets. They fret about guests spilling red wine and breaking precious ornaments. They are afraid people will never leave.
Mind you, they do have a point there. I remember when I had my first house warming party. I went to bed at 4am and when I awoke again at 9am there were still a few stragglers bopping around my sitting room.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." So I guess the sensible thing to do is make sure that your guests don't overstay their welcome.
I wrote last week about my Spanish guests. They came for three nights. Everything went well and they left the place clean and tidy.
It was a home exchange, an idea I've always toyed with. I worked like crazy before they arrived, cleaning every nook and cranny. I even ironed all the sheets and bath towels, which is something that I never do. Without wishing to boast or anything, I had my place looking like a five-star hotel.
"Where do you keep the coffee maker?" they asked as soon as they arrived, looking around my pristine kitchen expectantly.
Coffee maker? Oh no, I didn't have one. Suddenly I felt sort of inadequate. Of course I should have bought a coffee maker. Spanish people love their coffee. Real coffee.
I drink instant coffee myself. Or poison, as my dad prefers to call it. Any time we travel anywhere that doesn't have a coffee maker he rushes off to buy one!
I offered to buy one but the Spaniards said it was okay, that they'd try my instant stuff. At least the kids didn't have any requests. They loved playing with my son's toys.
Anyway, once they were gone I congratulated myself on a job well done. Apart from the lack of a coffee maker, the guests were satisfied. I could get into this house-swapping stuff, I told myseIf.
So when a Japanese couple suggested a swap with them next year, I thought, why not? I've always wanted to visit Japan but I believe the price of hotels is very expensive.
But then I had doubts. Don't most Japanese live in tiny shoebox apartments? Would the bed, toilet and cooker be all in the same crammed little room? I wasn't sure I could handle that.
I checked the photos. They seemed fine. I told the Japanese family I was interested. Then a couple from Austin, Texas, contacted me. Did I want to go stay with them? Would I need to get a stetson?
I know a lot of places are selling them cheap at the moment after the whole Garth Books fiasco. But seriously, I need to reign myself in. I just can't go to everyone that invites me. Home swaps are free but air fares are not. I'd love to stay with all these people. I just need to win the lottery!