I took this job because people fascinate me. And whilst we say to most guests that we get a diverse range of people coming to stay, it’s a lie. It’s 99% white middle class British. But it would be an insult to say they’re similar. Every guest we’ve hosted has their little idiosyncrasies, the good, the bad and the ugly.
You remember the good ones, those golden guests who say thank you after every meal and show a genuine interest in you as a human being, not just a means to an end. January was full of them – there was a Scottish family in particular who welcomed us into their tartan bosoms like one of their own.
But there are those guests whose sense of entitlement clings like rust to their polished skin. I shiver when I think of the Birthday Group in February, led by birthday girl we aptly named Queen B. In they shimmered, Prada handbags slung over cashmere-covered shoulders, their highlights catching the candlelight at the dinner table. Early thirties, these women made the Made in Chelsea crew seem a grounded, likeable bunch.
When Queen B’s BFF told me to serve Queen B first for every meal, I laughed, I thought she was joking. When BFF repeated it at breakfast, I was nervous. I glanced at Queen B, and by her sullen pout, I suddenly realised with horror; they were deadly serious. She wanted to be served before everyone else, for every meal. And being gluten intolerant, Queen B demanded everyone must have the same food as her. I saw the sad expressions as her friends gave up their cheesecakes and brownies for gluten-free mousses, but they kept silent, so fearful were they of Queen B’s wrath.
The week got worse. They clicked their fingers, their beer-bellied men got ruder and ruddier as they demanded more wine, and when we put out the coffee and teapots on the table, one came up to me with a sheepish smile and said: “Can you pour the tea and coffee for us? I would but you’ll be much better than me.”
Even cleaning the bedrooms of these banker boys and their trophy wives was an uncomfortable experience. Each room, it was as if the women didn’t exist. Their perfumes and jewellery were hidden in neat little L’Occitane bags, their Louis Vuitton suitcases tucked in the wardrobes, whilst aftershaves and razors littered the sink, last night’s jeans and boxers lay crumpled on the bathroom floor. I wondered why the men were so lazy and the women’s presence so unseen. It made me uneasy.
During these times when guests would inevitably make you feel dumb, slow or inadequate, it helped to look back and remember Scottish toddlers taking their first steps on the tiled floor, or soft-toned farriers weaving stories of their foals as the fire dies down to its embers. It also helped to accidentally drop toothbrushes in toilets, but that was only on very rare occasions.
Got a great guest horror story from your season? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo a tribute to the film Chalet Girl, yes we had some actual guests who played the Ibble Dibble drinking game with a burnt cork…)