The last time we had a friend to stay in London, was about 14 years ago, when we lived in a small terraced house in Sheperds Bush with one bouncing boy baby and a thin stray cat. Our son is now a teenager, and the day after his recent 14th birthday, he un-friended me from Facebook, glued himself to his mobile and began to grunt. Marie (who came to stay with us all those years ago) lives in Paris and is an exact replica of Julia Roberts. She ostensibly was staying for a night, then revealed she was depressed and installed herself in our small spare room for a week. She spent a great deal of time in bed, so didn’t need much entertaining.
We didn’t move far. We now live in a 3-storey-house, across the road from where we used to live. We have two children. We have a large office space that we share, a dining room, and a small garden, but no definitely no spare bedroom. A girlfriend was going to stay recently, after a late night, changed her mind when she realised she would have to sleep in my daughter’s single bed, while my daughter squashed between me and my husband in our room upstairs. Just as well. We would have had to search far and wide for a clean towel and sheet.
Before we were married, we rented a house in the Brecon Beacons for a year and for several weekends in a row we had people to stay. It seemed like such a fun idea! The sun was out; the view was stunning. We had a lovely spare bedroom and lots of walks on our doorstep. We even bought a visitors book. We would entertain them well, in lieu of the fact that they had driven over the Severn Bridge to get to us. We cooked lavish dinners and full English breakfasts with a choice of tea. We arranged walks to the pub, friends over for drinks. We changed sheets and washed towels. Picked flowers for their rooms. It began to feel like a B and B. It was utterly exhausting.
I am all for the idea of catching up “properly” with friends which is what all my country friends say about having friends to stay, but I am just as happy to have a spontaneous coffee or a walk in the park in the City. Another thing country folk say is ‘it’s only an hour from London, you must come for lunch.’ I’ve learnt to add a third to the journey time at least!