In which we consider the impending onslaught of summer visitors and wonder whether a person could have opening and closing times like a boutique.
Well it’s that time of year again here on the hillside, the friends and family start their mass migration to foreign climes passing where possible by our front door for a few days or hours of catching up, eating and drinking. The house will be dusted, hoovered, scoured and beaten into temporary spick and span mode, I will raid my linen cupboard in the hope of finding sufficient sheets and towels for an army of weary bodies and for about six weeks the washing machine will be in overdrive and the less visible parts of the house will resemble a Chinese laundry. Throughout this time, the sociable Mr H will be in his element, gathering around the barbecue with the other males, setting fire to meat and indulging his inner caveman, happily reuniting with friends and family from our former life, whilst I, the closet hermit, will be wondering how often I can discreetly escape in search of peace and quiet to the refuge of my study, workroom, shop, bathroom, store cupboard, anywhere, without seeming immensely rude. It’s not that I don’t want to see the people who come to stay, many of them are very dear and very special and I will enjoy dipping back into their lives for a while to see how they are and what they’re up to, it’s just the intensity of these annual visits that I find a little overwhelming. We go from a calm and peaceful atmosphere tranquil enough to grace a monastery, to a full on invasion in one fell swoop. Luggage mountains will take over the hallway, the kitchen and the guest room. The dining table will disappear for several days under piles of games, iPads, mobile devices, newspapers and forgotten chocolate bars. Children and other assorted wild things will run about screaming and terrifying the customers, monosyllabic adolescents will be found sprawling with bags of crisps and coke cans in front of the television and our poor little girl cat will be traumatized and go into hiding ( sometimes we hide together) for the duration. In the end I suppose it is just a question of degree. I am not a completely unsociable person, after all, a large and enjoyable part of my working life is spent talking to people, finding out about my customers and what they like, so that I can make their visits to the boutique and the tea room as enjoyable as possible. This is not very different in reality from welcoming and looking after house guests, but the boutique has opening and closing times and when the day is done I can close the gates, switch off the lights, pour my glass of wine and relax. When visitors are here the wine will be poured but there is no open or closed, I will be expected to be capable of speech at the breakfast table and to remain jolly and patient throughout the day before switching into party mode until well after midnight. They are all on holiday of course and I suppose, in a strange way, the drastic change of routine and the whirlwind of life around the place will mean that we are too. The late opening hours I’m sure I can cope with but perhaps I should tell them that I am definitely not open for conversation before 9.30 in the morning?