Drinks inside a pub rather than shivering in a beer garden. A meal in a restaurant. A night in my favourite hotel and a big family barbecue — the further lifting of lockdown restrictions on May 17 can’t come quickly enough for me.
But there’s one restriction I’d happily keep in place forevermore — staying overnight at somebody else’s house.
The older we get and the more stuck in our ways, the less appealing it is to spend a night at a friend’s home — no matter how dear they are to us. While sleepovers are thrilling for children, they are a panic-inducing nightmare for some adults.
As a middle-aged fusspot, I will always choose a hotel or B&B (and encourage my friends to do the same when they visit) — but sometimes ‘staying over’ just can’t be avoided. Here are the 25 things I loathe about being a house guest.
Claudia Connell (pictured) admits she would happily keep the UK’s ban on staying overnight at somebody else’s house
1 Oh, how we used to roll our eyes when we heard our parents say there’s nothing quite like your own bed. As a single person, a night at a friend’s house will often mean I’m relegated to a child’s bedroom and forced from my comfy double with Tempur mattress on to a tiny single (or bunk bed) with an inch-thick mattress, rusty springs and Lego-themed duvet. Or the horror that is the futon. Lumpy, with huge buttons, it’s like being asked to sleep on a giant anorak.
2 Not knowing what time to get up. If you can hear them having breakfast at 7am, does that mean you have to drag yourself out of bed and join them? If you are up at 8am and they are still asleep, can you help yourself to tea and toast?
3 What kind of savages don’t have a lock on their loo door? It means that for the entire weekend you can never truly have a relaxed pee because you will be sitting on the loo with one foot up against the door, terrified that a husband, child or in-law is going to burst in on you.
4 And where is the loo? Before I stay with friends, ideally I’d like to be issued with a floorplan just to make sure that the facilities aren’t located next to the sitting room. There’s nothing quite so dreadful as trying to go silently when everyone’s playing Scrabble within earshot.
5 Towels like sandpaper. Towels with mysterious stains. The towel that isn’t quite big enough to cover everything, meaning, post-shower, you have to dash to your room faster than Usain Bolt in case you flash anyone. Worse, the damp towel of 1,000 previous occupants hanging fetidly on the back of the bathroom door for communal use. Why didn’t you pack your own?
6 Polycotton sheets, scratchy blankets, pillows with prickly feather stubs sticking out and candlewick bedspreads that belong in a boarding house in Blackpool in 1977. Yes, I’m a bedlinen snob. And no, yours are not good enough.
Claudia (pictured) said she loathes buying special modest nightwear and spending the whole night tossing and turning at a friend’s house
7 At home or in a hotel I sleep in a T-shirt. But in someone else’s home you feel obliged to buy special modest nightwear and spend the whole night tossing and turning in your new pyjamas with the buttons digging in to your waist or your Victorian nightie that creeps up your body, threatening to suffocate you.
8 When you get up, get dressed, put on your make-up, style your hair and go down to breakfast to find the whole family sitting around the table in their nightclothes with bed hair looking at you like you are a lunatic.
9 When you decide you will go down to breakfast in your pyjamas like everyone else but you can’t possibly sit there with no bra and knickers on, so you put clean ones on under your pyjamas and then try and avert your eyes as your hosts flap and flop around under theirs.
10 The hostess bringing you a cup of tea in bed is lovely. But I like my tea strong, not this milky monstrosity. I will have to try to tip it down the bathroom washbasin without her seeing.
11 No bins upstairs. What are you meant to do with your cotton wool wads soaked in the make-up you have just removed? Leave them in a pile on the nightstand or take them down to the kitchen and risk getting savaged by the family dog?
Claudia (pictured) said she loathes children coming in the room to wake you up at 6am
12 Mini toiletries are one of the best things about staying in a hotel. If you are staying one night at a friend’s, it seems silly to take your own full-size ones, so you help yourself to hers. ‘Is that my Aesop body lotion I can smell? You found everything OK then?’ she will ask at breakfast in a passive-aggressive way.
13 When you stay with friends they set the thermostat and you just have to suck it up. Will it be cranked up to 25c (77f) so you feel oven-roasted by the morning? Or do the radiators go off in April come what may, meaning it takes you all day to defrost?
14 At the risk of sounding like a Downton Abbey housemaid, I like my bedroom to be aired. Windows painted shut give me palpitations.
15 He thinks it’s fine to open another bottle of red; she thinks he’s had more than enough. Suddenly, you’re stuck in the middle as the hosts have a blazing row. Do you referee? Diffuse? Or disappear?
16 Couples with children like to make the most of the freedom if they have packed the sprogs off to the grandparents. At midnight I want to go to bed and read a chapter of my book. They want to do shots and play Twister until the early hours.
17 Children coming into your room to wake you up at 6am. On the second night you shut the door and put a chair up against it only to hear, ‘Mummy, the lady has blocked the door.’
18 Unfamiliar house noises. I’m unphased by a creaking floorboard in my own home but at somebody else’s? I’m clearly going to be murdered in my bed by the relative hiding in the attic. Or, worse, they are secret swingers about to burst in naked.
Claudia (pictured) admits that she loathes seeing her friend’s husband commando at 1am when they pass on the landing
19 Modern parents who let the children stay up and dominate the conversation around the dinner table. I want to talk about the weirdo I met on Tinder. I can’t do that with little Jonty and Jemima sitting there.
20 If I’m staying at a couple’s house, it’s usually the woman I’m friends with, which is why I really don’t want to see her husband commando at 1am when we pass on the landing . . .
21 . . . Especially not when all the lights are off and you have to feel your way along the hallway. If you make it to the bathroom without falling down the stairs, you have to wrestle with the question: to flush or not to flush? Wake them all up? Or leave it and hope you get there in the morning before they do? Cue insomnia till dawn.
22 Curtains that don’t meet in the middle, shutters that don’t shut or a roller blind that lets the sun through. Apparently, the whole world doesn’t have black-out blinds.
23 Their house, their rules. That sinking feeling when they announce they have an exciting day planned at the local sculpture park in the pouring rain. You were thinking more along the lines of drinking cans of M&S cocktails in the conservatory with a giant bowl of crisps.
24 You are at their mercy when it comes to food and they will either serve you way too much or not enough. They’ve told you to make yourself at home. Does that include raiding the biscuit barrel as you’re famished?
25 Other people’s pets. ‘She’s taken a shine to you!’ they’ll say about their new Cavapoo who was scratching at your door all night, has shed hair all over your clothes and leaps on to your lap to lick your face.