Monday, 26 April 2010

House guests from hell

I haven't posted for a week now, been too busy biting my lip. I'm not sure I should be writing this at all but I need to get things off my chest so I will.
As you know we didn't get to Italy as planned but our elderly relatives, who are actually my late parents' cousins, I'll just call them cousins for simplicity, came up from Yorkshire to house sit for us. They hung around whilst we re-arranged and re-re-arranged our flights finally cancelling the holiday altogether last Wednesday. We weren't sure what the cousins planned to do, we should probably have asked, but it seemed a bit churlish to suggest they just go home as we didn't need them and it transpired that they intended to stay with us for the whole 2 weeks. Lucky for us they received a phone call late last week asking them to attend a meeting tomorrow so they left this morning. They've been visiting Scotland for many years and when we needed someone to look after our elderly cats it seemed a good idea to let them use our house in return for some (albeit very slapdash) cat care. We continued letting them use the house when the cats died though I was beginning to find some of the things they did intrusive, examples
  • I had been encouraging moss to grown on the stone bird bath on the patio, I came back from one holiday to find it has been cleaned off
  • The white sand I had brought home from the beach at Sanibel Island off the coast of Florida which was on a pretty plate and topped by my collection of shells from the same place had been washed down the sink because 'it was only sand'. I was so upset I couldn't speak for the rest of the day
  • Every time we came home from a holiday I would find the house spotlessly clean, to the extent that full bottles of chemical cleaner had been purchased and used, despite my requests to use my own eco friendly products.
  • I came home once to find that all my everyday jewellery, beads, bracelets etc that sits on my dressing table had been put into washed out margarine cartons, in fact my whole dressing table had been tidied so that I couldn't find a thing

Anyway as I said, I lived with that, put everything back to normal and threw out the chemicals when our guests left. However, living with the same relatives for the past 10 days has left my nerves jangling. I may be over sensitive, I may be unreasonable but here are a few of the comments I've received from the woman

  • On arrival 'oh look how bare your garden is'. Excuse me, we live at 900' in the Scottish Borders and have just been through the worst winter ever, the alpine plants are glorious at the moment but you do need to get off your arse and look.
  • Speaking about her obscenely large and hideous collection of china ornaments 'I need someone sensible to dispose of them out when I've gone but you're not sensible'. Sensible enough to bin them madam
  • As we all sat at breakfast 'I've been knocking down some of your cobwebs but I see I've missed one there' Priceless.

My cousins always arrive with their own supply of preservative heavy cheap cakes, at least 8 boxes, their own shop bought jam rather than touch my homemade ones and an industrial sized vat of cheap spread because we use butter. I have in the past filled the cake tin for them before we've left on holiday only to return to find my baking untouched so I don't do that now. The woman was reluctant to eat any of the wholesome food I cooked, a vegetarian quiche was not sampled at all which I find insulting, and when I made a roast chicken dinner she would only have one small slice of breast meat (she doesn't eat stuffing or dark meat) and then plonked her own supply of cakes on the table and ate several.
It's a fine art to being a good house guest, in my experience it involves spending time away from your hosts so they have their space and providing plenty of wine, chocolates, intelligent conversation and periods of silence. I've been emailing my friend Pam over this time to release some of the pressure, this has been really helpful. Pam told me she has a three day rule, anyone can come and stay but after three days they have to leave. If I'd know that sooner I might have gone down to stay with Pam for three days as it is I just need to scream for quite a while and contemplate what the hell going to happen when we go to Italy later in the year.


  1. You have my deepest and utmost sympathy. It sounds as if they are possibly becoming a bit odd in their old age. There's many similar reasons why my MIL doesn't stay over any more, as well. :-)

  2. Oh dear, it really doesn't sound like much fun at all. I really value my privacy and would find it hard to cope under such circumstances. Never mind, once they're away things will get back to normal (um, till the next time!) and it does give you some great anecdotes for keeping us all amused!

  3. Sounds like you have had to endure a lot. Why is it that some people turn up to visit and do nothing but criticise and carp when you have gone to a lot of trouble to make them feel welcome? Next time (if there is one) you should definitely adopt that 3 day rule, not least for your own sanity!!

  4. Do you even need a house sitter? We closed our house up once for almost 3 months. Turned off the gas and water, and water heater, covered all the furniture with sheets, cleaned out the fridge and dumped any parishable food, and left nothing but the power running. Everything was exactly as we left it. then again we didn't have any pets.

  5. Pams rule is great advise - I have had some pretty rude house guests in my time. We have 1 - who helps himself to all our wine, but when we visit him, pours us half a glass each, then drinks the rest himself!!! You do have my sympathy - perhaps its time to say "no more" (like we have done with the afore mentioned guset!). xxxx

  6. Hi Jenny! In Italy we use to say "l'ospite รจ come il pesce..dopo 3 giorni puzza!" you know already this proverb? (guests are like fish..after 3 days it smells terribly!) Your good friend Pam is right!

  7. Poor you! Sounds like you need to get your knitting out and knit a few calming rows. We used to have friends housesit for us when we went away, and began to dread coming home, as there were always problems. We don't have anyone staying now, and it's much less stressful!

  8. Oh my word! They sound like the relatives from hell! Perhaps there doesn't have to be a next time? Or would that be too difficult? LOve to hear you had sand from Sanibel. We went there a few years ago and I also have sand and shells.... in a little bowl! It's one of the most beautiful places! Have a good week, getting back to normal. Ros

  9. Oh you poor things! how you didn't run them through with your needles is beyond me!

    Is it worth hunting around for a good cattery? I know it can feel dreadful leaving the kitties there but sometimes it may be worth it. I used to house sit for my parents as none of us could bare the idea of the cattery, but when we moved to London Mum and Dad (and the cats) simply had to just get on with it if they ever wanted to go away. So far it has all worked out amazingly well.

    Even the cats have reduced their period of not talking to my parents on their return to a few hours.

  10. Oh dear , you do have my sympathy! they sound horrendous - and very, very rude! Why do we all have relatives like that? Fortunately we don't all have them to stay!

    I think a cattery sounds much the best idea - pets are tougher than we think. Our dog is going to have to go to kennels in September. He probably won't like it - too bad!

    How old are your cousins? Next time you go away you could say you think it too much of an imposition to ask them to house sit now they are getting old!

  11. Oh how awful, I sympathise completely. Hubby's aged parents used to spend a month at a time, I was completely exhausted by the time they went home, they ate and ate and ate.. Mind you at least they ate what I cooked rather than became sniffy, that is my Mother's domain. (and she'd be the one looking for cobwebs as well)

    Hugs to you and I am hoping you are feeling a little better.

  12. much you've had to put up with Jenny. I admire how you've kept your cool with such goings on--and from family! It's difficult when having pets that need looking after so one can go away on holiday and feel sure they're well looked after. Your experience though--well, that takes the cheap cake, doesn't it?! LOL! Perhaps you need to find you house-sitters now... So sorry you've had to go through all this, and not just once! ((HUGS))

  13. Geezus! I've always said that anyone not your partner gets impossible to live with within 6 months, but these people seem to have crushed that "record". Unbelievable that you didn't poison them by drenching their cake stash with their special detergent. I'm sure that partly they are just different than you and mean well, but I don't know why some people don't seem to have a need to use their social antennae..

    You know, I have experience with animals and love cats and Scotland, so pls invite me to housesit next time, I promise to eat your cakes too!!

  14. I was going to tell you the Italian proverb about house guests being like fish but I see Michela has already done so!

    We do miss our animals but at least we can just shut up the house and travel:)

    hope you are feeling more relaxed again by now.

  15. deary me!
    Guests that take advantage and outstay their welcome, well I am not sure I have an answer but hope everything settles down and gets back to normal for you. Not sure what the answer is though....

  16. Your post made me laugh a lot. Who hasn't been there!

    The funny thing is I can see the way they would tell their side of the story "we always tidy up her house and clean it with proper cleaning stuff" and "we bring cakes so she doesn't have to make any" - People are very misguided with what they think is helpful!

    If they thought your garden looked bare, please do send them in my direction. When they see the dust bowl outside my window (permanent hosepipe ban in Cyprus) they will probably drop dead in shock! ;-)

  17. We have four large dogs and an old cockatiel and we have to have a sitter when we go anywhere! We pay 100 dollars a day and the lady sleeps here and generally treats it as her own home till we are back.

    For the most part all is good but she will not listen to my instructions, written and verbal, about the bird!! It's always done her way and drives me nuts! So much so that is rare that we go anywhere together now so that one of us is always home. As I type, hubby has gone to visit the kids and I'm home alone.
    I so understand what a problem this is for you. I think a really good lodging place is in order for your cats if you can bear to do it. Better than having your home reorganised but your cousins!!!!

  18. How horrendous and intrusive. Just plain wrong on so many levels. Never have them back again. Please. You shouldn't have to put up with that.

    I've looked after people's animals before but have never been so rude as to go into their bedrooms unless I was checking to make sure an animal was ok and everything tidy upon the owner's return (furballs have the habit of occasionally turning up on pillows and that's not nice to find when you've had a long tiring flight!).

    I've confined myself to the bedroom assigned, living room, kitchen and bathroom and those will be clean when the person returns.

    I'd never dream of throwing anything away or rooting through/organised someone's stuff. I'd even think twice about weeding just in case I pulled up something that had been purposefully left.I did once hire a carpet cleaner before when someone's cat got freaked by them going away and extensively peed on the hallway carpet.

    I mind my own business and put the animals first.

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