Visiting Rules

1 Nov 2022

The upper classes had it easy. An addict of Nancy Mitford, I learn from her novels that you do not go away for the ‘week-end’. You go for a ‘Saturday to Monday’. You arrived for tea, told what to wear for dinner, white or black tie. The men stayed with port and cigars, then billiards – if you played bridge you were popular. Don’t think church was obligatory, shooting arranged, Sunday dinner off on Monday. ‘Downton Abbey’ showed us even more how both halves lived, personal maid and all.

I have had nearly 8 decades visiting and being visited. Memories show that ‘rules’ would have been useful. However well you get on as a family I gather 3 days is the perfect visiting length. But as, with us and many friends, their families are spread round the world – cost and time mean you have to stay with family, hotel costs exorbitant in the Far East. My late son once said our visits were ‘disruptive’, I was very hurt at the time, then saw the justice. We naturally wanted to see our children, and particularly to get to know the grand-children. In UK Sunday lunch was the only available time. How many people here have dreaded a critical mother-in-law, husbands and sons going down the pub to avoid the racket. Why does the Sunday lunch habit endure? Cook stretched, maybe disorganised, visitors long journey, hungry, as are children. They have been up early excited by the visit, fractious by lunch time. If the lunch is ‘heavy’ men might sleep, kids need entertainment, visitors faced long drive home. Solution? We were SO lucky. We would go and look after children so parents could go away. Children would be ‘posted’ to us. One son would bring one of his children and a cousin, we would do a baton change, picnic on the Seine, visitors take kids back to Portsmouth.

Our ‘perfect’ answer came when Mr G’s health precluded staying with family/friends, however welcoming and  good were their facilities. So we stayed in a hotel near most of our children, easy reach port/train/airport. Again, we had the money. I was still driving, could go out to lunch, or people could come to us. Elderly friends with an hour or more drive would come in the afternoon, dinner bed and breakfast with us, drive home next morning, perfect.

Back to the ‘disruptive’ theme. We HAVE visited family a lot over years. Cost of housing precludes spare rooms, en suite bathrooms. We all had to ‘budge up’ parents would give up their room and camp on the ‘put-u-up’. Or we would crease ourselves on it. Childen would be put together – usually rowdy and disturbed sleep. And bathrooms! Friends in Bristol, elegant Edwardian house, super welcome. BUT. The parents worked, two young daughters, one bathroom with no separate loo. Mr G had a stomach bug, dared not monopolise the upstairs loo, spent night in downstairs cloakroom. Cost, travel and housing problems are making visiting even worse. Do you grin and bear it, or practice much needed tolerance. 

The Gardener

A Moodscope member

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