Guess who is coming to stay?
How many days will you treat yours guests well?
It is rightly said that house guests and fish have a common factor. After three days, they begin to stink.
There is a natural route these visits follow. You arrive at the host's place full of warmth and sunshine and thoughtful gifts and they give you the hastily refurbished room with spanking new sheets, a fresh bar of soap, a fluffy towel smelling of naphthalene (saved in the suitcase for a special occasion) and a tube of toothpaste.
Feel at home, they tell you, it is so wonderful to have you, anything you need, just call.
Has anyone ever done that. called at 0200 hours?
Come next morning and they have told you, relax, no rush to wake up, get over your jet lag, so you are lying there not making a noise in case they wake up and they are in the adjoining room lying there not making a noise in case you are disturbed and this absurd scenario in mutual accommodation can go half way onto lunch and then, finally, both have the same thought, enough already, so the encounter occurs outside the bathroom door and now there is a flurry of no, no, you go first, no, you please, no hurry, all yours, it's okay.
And then it is lunch and they have laid on a veritable feast and you haven't the heart to tell them that you are on a sparse diet and this is going to wreck it and why have they bothered, and the host is thinking, we never make this much on any other day, costs a fortune. And they have pulled out the finest linen and crockery and that Royal King silver cutlery set that is used only to impress guests. And then at dinner, you ruin it all by saying you are off shellfish and they have just invested in lobsters and tiger prawns and they have to pretend it is all fine, no sweat.
Then they have mapped out the tour for you to sightsee and you are not a sightseer and you have to pretend this is the most exciting idea and what you don't know is that the host would rather watch Chelsea play Arsenal and instead he has to go with you because his wife hissed and said, it doesn't look nice if you stay back, it's only a soccer game.
How do you explain it is not just a game? So, the next thing you know you are stuck in traffic somewhere and moaning the fact that Arsenal is already two down while the host is prattling on about museums or the rain forest.
Off and on these visits surrender one night to a small group of their friends who 'just have to meet you' and they arrive full of good cheer and you know none of them but you are Exhibit A and it won't look nice if you don't show enthusiasm and be grateful for the gesture.
Finally, it is day three and you have both run out of conversation and you are avoiding their obnoxious teenage children who resent you for having 'stolen' their room so they are having to share and the husband and wife are now asking oblique questions to ascertain when you are leaving, like should we book theatre tickets for Sunday or how about a trip to the west coast on Saturday and oh, you won't be here, leaving so soon, which is a lot of baloney because the relief you are leaving is dripping down their faces like rainwater on a spaniel's face. Your wife then decides to send you a WhatsApp saying, they have been very hospitable the least you can do is take them out for dinner and in a rash moment to fill in a silence, you offer and now you are in this fancy restaurant calculating the bill and it is a sobering thought: it is big enough for you to have stayed in a hotel and watched India play Bangladesh.
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