The Guest List


Languedoc Living reader, Judith Stafford, is not alone with these thoughts!

One of the best things about being lucky enough to own a house in the Languedoc, is being able to share it with your nearest and dearest from home. There’s no point having all this fabulous weather, countryside, food, wine and general gorgeousness, if you can’t spread the love. We couldn’t wait for the house to be ready to receive our first guests.

By the time I’d finished with their room it smelt of bees wax and lavender. The bed linen was crisp and fragrant, pillows plumped like big marshmallows. There were sachets of herbs, scented candles, piles of individually wrapped soaps, freshly laundered bathrobes with matching slippers.

I’d provided a little engraved carafe, filled with Muscat and some tiny old glasses from a vide grenier, so they could pour themselves an aperitif. A pile of fluffy towels was neatly folded on the bed, along with a cotton drawstring bag filled with items from various boutique hotels -(some might say “nicked”, I would say “bought and paid for with the room”) – combs, mini shampoos, shower caps, nail files.

On my funny little cooker from Bon Coin, a big pot of chicken in lemon, wild thyme and olives blipped away, filling the kitchen with welcoming aromas of the region. We’ll pick them up from the airport, then we’ve planned antique hunting, swimming in cool rivers, oysters at the beach. Tomorrow night we’ll take them out to that bistro that does the freshest salad Perigueux and the most unctuous cassoulet. After all, they’ve spent all that money on flights, so we want them to feel welcomed and get a real sense of being in France.

I’ve got a moleskin notebook that I bought from a papetier in Paris. It can serve as a visitor’s book, so they can record their favourite experiences for the benefit of future guests.

A lovely time was had by all and ended in fond hugs and promises of a repeat visit. The house felt very quiet after they’d gone but the next party will be on their way in a few days, so time to get out the Hoover, strip those beds and snip some fresh flowers and olive sprigs, the silvery grey leaves of which, go so well with a mauve hibiscus bloom and some bright pink bougainvillea. A couple of the soaps had been unwrapped and only used once, but no matter. What’s an expensive tissue wrapped soap between friends? They certainly had enjoyed the Muscat – well that’s what it was there for! – and the loo roll needed replenishing.

Yet another wonderful weekend ensued and more precious memories committed to the moleskin visitor’s book. Once again the house felt very quiet when they’d gone.

Quiet, and peaceful.

Restful even.

I imagined the next group of visitors packing and getting excited at the prospect of their weekend away. I thought I’d just send a quick email strongly recommending they hire a car with a Satnav, just so they have that bit of independence, only if they want it. A good hostess should think of everything. I’ll leave a pile of maps in their room. Also, I asked if they could just bring a few rolls of toilet paper. I mean, the rate these people go through the stuff! What’s wrong with them?

I wonder if I actually need to change the sheets? The last guests were meticulous in their personal hygiene and if I Hoover the bed, who would know? In fact the Hoover is quite a faff to get up the stairs, so maybe an inspection for stray hairs and then a spray with the air freshener from the lav. Similarly, those towels hardly look used, and it’s much better for the environment not to do all that washing.

I seem to have drunk the rest of the Muscat while I was doing the last lot of cleaning, so I’ll thoughtfully replace it with some tap water in case they get thirsty in the night, and perhaps some paper cups to save on the washing up. I’ve become quite the Eco-warrior.

There’s a Fish and Chips evening at the cafe tonight. I think they’d enjoy that. I know they can have fish and chips whenever they like in England, but it is a French cafe, they would be drinking French wine and you never know, there might even be a few actual French people there.

And another thing, with all this socialising I’ll be in the Betty Ford Clinic by Monday, so maybe they wouldn’t mind if I stayed in and watched “Strictly”? I mean, that’s one of the signs of an enduring and valued friendship, that everyone can do their own thing and it just doesn’t matter. Equally, good friends never outstay their welcome. You never know, they might want to be flexible in their arrangements and leave early. It might cost them a bit extra to change the flights, but they’d offset that by saving a day on the hire car. A considerate hostess thinks of those things.

And that bloody visitor’s book can go in the bin. This isn’t “Four in a Bed”.