Maeve Higgins’s ideal . . . house guest


I was in my room the other day, getting cracking on my Christmas card list. With a heavy sigh I crossed off the people who were now dead to me and noted the reason beside the name like so: Mindy – mocked my fake tan. Henry – forever comparing music and landscape to films he’s seen “Oh that’s like Lord of the Rings” etc. Patrice – frigid. Saddened by my shortest list yet, I decided instead to imagine the ideal house guest.

If I were to have a house of my own, instead of this one little room, I’m sure it would be filled with all sorts of house guests from all around the globe. Each would contribute something intrinsically theirs, star anise from Persia, gossip from Manhattan, innocence from Mullingar, and create a great big cultural brew that I would ladle out with easy grace. For now, until I marry well, I must be content with being a house guest. And I can tell you I am more than content with that, for I am in fact the ultimate house guest, the standard bearer; I am begged to stay and mourned when gone.

How do you do it? I hear you murmur. My hair? I just crack a gull’s egg on top of my head, scrunch it and leave it dry naturally. Oh, you meant how did I become the ultimate house guest? I did it by being common (fake tan) but not too common (I’ve no kids), by being fancy (shop-bought cakes as gifts) but not too fancy (I never sleep with the host).

Staying in someone’s home is like being a friendly spy, but you must take care not to reveal what you’ve learned. I am always polite “Did you sleep well? I popped my head in a few times and you seemed so peaceful.” But I never pry “How is your marriage? Seems like there is something simmering, and not in a good way! Tea?”

If you play host a lot, feeding your house guests scallops and keeping them warm with electricity, you may well wonder how to recoup your costs. Asking for cash is “not cool” according to my ex-mother-in-law, so how can they pay you back? Perhaps by doing little tasks for you– something they are good at.

Let’s say you have the good fortune to have Eddie Hobbs splayed out on your visitors’ settle, simply tuck up beside him and sing softly “Oh little Doctor Numbers, a favour for a favour” as you hand him your tax return with a wink. How can he say no when he’s positively hoovering up your Sugar Puffs every morning?

Who was it that said house guests are like fish, was it Eamon de Valera? How I long to know why he thought that – they don’t generally swim around silently or lay eggs as opposed to giving birth.

Maybe he meant that the ideal house guest is tidy and independent and sends flashes of silvery fun through an otherwise dull day.

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