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Olive Braman tells of the hazards of letting people use your holiday home

If you own a holiday home it seems a bit mean not to let other people stay there when you’re not using it.  So we agreed that my friends’ daughter, husband and four small children could stay in our cottage for a few weeks. As they were quite hard up they suggested that they would do some decorating in lieu of rent. We suspected from the start that this was likely to create problems but felt a refusal might upset our friends. 


Had I been a generous spirit I would have acquiesced with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart, glad to be able to help my fellow man. Not me! Throughout their stay, pangs of anxiety kept shooting through me as I wondered what was happening to the little house on which we had worked so hard.   


Following the family’s departure we travelled there in trepidation. We were hugely relieved to find that some painting had been done and there was no damage, just a large puddle on the bathroom floor. However the plumbing is old so our guests were probably not to blame. We were a bit mystified at being unable to locate the mop bucket.


Then we discovered that the adapter and the iron were missing. The large white lamp had disappeared. Most of the upstairs lights had dead bulbs.


I began to get cross. Over the next few days my irritation turned to fury as I found that the bedroom curtains were stained. Someone had obviously shaken a bottle of makeup and had splattered both curtains and the window sill. I was incensed when I realised that the make-up was my own liquid foundation and that there was hardly any left . And my husband’s one and only hairbrush, which he cherished dearly, had vanished.                                                                 

We also found that the children had drawn pictures on the walls and garden furniture, the washing line post had been pulled out of the wall, a good pair of vice grips were no longer in existence, our dictionary had disappeared from the bookshelves, the yard brush was lying in an inaccessible garden below, the spare box of wine glasses and the pressure cooker had gone from the kitchen, the matching dessert spoons had vanished and surely there had once been another duvet and matching duvet covers and a mirror just outside the kitchen and a butterfly rug on the wall?  And why had two wooden curtain rails been replaced with metal ones? 


I could think of little but my possessions. I was affronted. My good nature had been abused. Did they think we wouldn’t notice? 


I stamped about in a fury. My husband, being more phlegmatic and probably nicer, though quite upset at the loss of his hairbrush, told me to calm down. But I was ready for a row, though inhibited by thoughts of my very nice friends. I could not believe that their daughter would have removed all those items, but where were they?


Of course some of them turned up. I found the mirror, the rug and the duvet covers and our cleaner handed back the iron and adapter which she had borrowed because hers was broken. I started to feel guilty about my suspicions and my mean nature.


Then we enquired about the other things. Oh yes, said our friends’ daughter, they had got the pressure cooker and would return it, they had replaced the curtain rails which were rotten (though they were perfectly sound as far as we were aware) and had broken the mop bucket and a lamp. They knew nothing about anything else.


And there it remains. I have given up and calmed down. We cleaned off the graffiti, re-cemented the washing line post, washed the curtains, and bought more light bulbs, lamps, a bucket, vice grips, a dictionary and a hairbrush..


However,  I found myself in a dilemma when some time later I saw the family at the local swimming pool with a pink and orange towel.  “Oh,” I thought, “I used to have a towel like that.” Could it be mine, or was I just going crazy? Then I saw the familiar, long pulled thread running through it… Moral cowardice kept me silent.


I still look at my friends’ charming daughter with jaundiced eyes. If she had only written a note of thanks or replaced or repaired damaged items, or even acknowledged that she had ‘borrowed’ certain items, things would have been so different.  


In future I intend to follow the example of a friend who endured similar experiences. She now leaves a detailed note for her guests telling them, amongst other things, that they are not to shift the furniture into other rooms, take books away, use towels to mop the floor, or leave stale food around the house.


We have just been asked by a neighbour if her boyfriend’s daughter can stay in our house for ten days. Just in case we say yes, I am getting my list ready.




laterlife interest

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