There was a period in your life when you probably weren’t all that great a houseguest. A time when you rocked up late, drank too much and were sick in places it isn’t polite to be sick. It never occurred to you to make the bed, let alone turn up with a gift that wasn’t wine you then proceeded to drink yourself.
But today things have improved. You don’t smoke any more, you don’t drink nearly as much as you’d like, and you even know how to load a dishwasher. You’re a fully-fledged, responsible adult, with the comfortable shoes and filed mortgage statements to prove it.
If there are any advantages to this state of affairs, one is that you are the ideal candidate for a house swap or Airbnb stay. The owner can rest assured there will be no wild parties, you (probably) won’t burn down the kitchen and you can be trusted to leave the house in a similar state to how you found it.
This is what I thought on our recent trip to Paris, when we rented an apartment in Le Marais. I loved this apartment. The location was perfect – staggering distance from the schmancy shops – and the place itself, with its rickety old lift and wrought-iron balconies, was what every gawking tourist wants from a Paris apartment. In fact we liked it so much I got a bit carried away with myself and decided, rather grandly, that we should go back all the time and make this our Paris base. A plan that was scuppered slightly when the owner wrote a horrible review saying that we’d left greasy children’s hand marks all over her leather dining chairs and could never darken her door again.
I was mortified by this – partly because I had plans to tour the world on Airbnb and that was those fucked right there, but also because I hadn’t even noticed. Greasy children’s hand marks? What greasy children’s hand marks? Then came the crashing moment of self-realisation as I understood what this said about the state of my own house.
And it’s true, there’s an awful lot I’ve stopped noticing. These days people come over and, catching sight of the coffee stains on the wall, ask, ‘What happened there?’ It’s not the stains that are unusual so much as their position, seven feet up, above the kitchen doorframe. But apparently that’s how high coffee can splash when you lob a massive great hunk of Plasticine at the ceiling and watch it drop into your dad’s morning latte.
There are other things I’ve stopped noticing. The motorcycle stickers plastered randomly to kitchen cabinets. The promotional sticker for a Nike fun day we didn’t go to on the front door. The gaping tears and felt-tip scribble on the lid of the steamer trunk.
Not so much distressed as completely traumatised.
Sure, my house was never going to trouble the pages of ELLE Deco, but there were certain standards I adhered to, pre-children. Back then I never found pear cores behind the computer, or snot stains on the sofa. Nobody head-butted the wall and left a big chunk of plaster missing. I could have bought a cream upholstered chair without it being the dumbest fucking thing I ever did in my life.
With that in mind, you’d have thought I’d have been a bit more switched on when I booked the Airbnb. After all, these kids have form. But, blinded by the prospect of affordable accommodation, I’d only thought about the kids in terms of how much space they’d take up (not much), rather than how much damage they’d cause (loads).
So if there’s anything you can take away from this story, it’s that this summer you should stump up for a hotel. Preferably one with a kids’ club.
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