Keeping up with visitors

As I sit and write this, I am slowly recovering from our recent onslaught of Visitors. You know what I mean by “Visitors” don’t you? Friends or family members you absolutely adore who drain you of energy by pushing your poor body’s limits beyond any programme a skilled drill sergeant could dream up. You go from being a homebody to thrown into a vortex of dinner, drinks and short sleeps. If there was such a thing as a Social Butterfly Boot Camp this is it; where the weak fall like the runt buffalo and only the strong survive until the weekend and blessed recuperation.

My best friend Lynne and I share a four-bedroom house. That means that we have two “spare” bedrooms, a fact not lost on myriad relations and compatriots the world over. For years we managed to neatly sidestep The Visitor, but incredibly we suddenly went from a semi-empty cottage to a full house through most of February and March. Feast or famine.

Now one of the spare bedrooms is upstairs and is absolutely pristine save for the odd cat hair – remnants from moggies who managed to infiltrate the sanctum. The downstairs spare is another story. When we had temporary roommates my endless collection of belongings were packed in closets, under beds and generally anywhere we could find space. The minute it was back to just the two of us, the downstairs room became the storage room. At last I could put my XBOX Rock Band instruments somewhere where they could be accessed at a moment’s notice! The multiple copper oil lamps shone in their corner (apart from the one I had used once that now sports a black hue no matter how many times I polish it) and a sports bag full of microphones and cords was ready for action.

This was all very well and good, but what were we to do when The Visitors arrived? I swiftly came to the conclusion that it was less work for me to move into the storage room betwixt the candles and Halloween costumes and give up my bedroom to guests, rather than clear everything out. It was like filming an Undercover Boss episode. I finally got to experience that downstairs room firsthand. The door with an inch gap at the bottom, which brought the rich sounds of someone bashing about in the kitchen right to my bedside; the proximity to the neighbours’ backyard and excited children who apparently can’t sleep beyond 5am; the 22-inch television that had me squinting to read the programme guide… I just kept reminding myself that I was a very kindhearted person. That got me through the days; which was good, as once The Visitors were in-house, it was go, go, go!

I didn’t take any time off work, so that was the usual 8.30 – 5 followed by the drive home. The minute I was in the door, the schedule for the night began. Instead of changing into my jammies, jumping on the couch and seeing what was on TV, it was into the shower, on with the makeup and out to hit the town! I was determined to be the consummate host and stayed out as long as they wanted to. Either that or I saw this as some sort of competition in my eternally juvenile way. Lynne, on the other hand, had no problem with ringing the bell early. She either took her own car or got a taxi home. Some nonsense about being sensible.

By the fourth day I was showing the strain – bags under the eyes, grey roots in the hair that I couldn’t be bothered to colour and my credit card a thin, transparent shadow of its former self and owner. As I crept between the sheets in the spare room, knocking a tomato planter box to the floor with my rogue elbow which in turn hit two candle holders, and prepared to squint until I located an episode of Law & Order: SVU, I marvelled at my capacity to continue functioning. I wasn’t the only one. The Visitors, who of course could sleep in until whatever time they liked would greet me constantly with cheery grins, “I don’t know HOW you do it!” and “I couldn’t keep up at your age!” But always followed by the inevitable “So what are we doing tonight?” Sigh. Shower. Makeup. Out.

I carry on like this, but we all know how great it is to spend time with people we haven’t seen in ages and show off the beautiful place where we live. I swear nothing makes you appreciate the Cayman Islands more than when you see it through the eyes of tourists. I also find that I go to a number of different venues and restaurants that I might not ordinarily patronise, so I always find a new treasure or two.

When The Visitors leave it is usually hard to say goodbye. Is it nice to have your own space again? Of course it is! Your coffee cup is where it should be and you’re back to having the couch all to yourself. I moved back up to my bedroom and luxuriated in the king-size bed with the large screen TV, promising myself to never take it for granted again. We thought we probably would take a break for a while from having people stay at the house, but then I believe it was just today I was talking to some friends of mine in Florida. I was completely sober when I heard myself say “And for goodness’ sake – WHEN are you coming down to visit??”