A well appointed guest bedroom is a glorious thing. 

It speaks of the finest of human expression. Hospitality. Geniality. Connection.

A guest bedroom, however, can also leave you in the crosshairs of expert freeloaders. Your guest bedroom can become a public amenity. Being able to accommodate can be interpreted as an obligation to accommodate. Palm trees, ski hills, cruise ship terminals – these place you at elevated risk of being highly attractive to opportunists. Golf courses, discount malls, the ‘great white way’ – attractions like these leave you vulnerable to the guileful. Miraculously, these problems evaporate if you move to Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan.

A well appointed guest bedroom is a glorious thing.

For a while, I lived in Boca Raton, Florida. For a couple of years I lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. Boca Raton lured with relentless sun; Greenwich is a bedroom community to the playground that is Manhattan. Our guest bedroom was a popular destination. We were wildly popular. A quick finger count reveals that we had close to two dozen guests during these few years. Some of these guests were ideal. Some of them I smothered in their sleep and buried in the backyard. 

I had to. 

If you decide to pop corn in your host’s kitchen at three in the morning, well, you take your chances.

But the good house guests made it all worthwhile.

Photo by krakenimages

They arrived with plans that allowed the household to carry on with its necessary business.

I might take the first day to show them the sights but they were well and able to manage without me. They pitched in with dishes and cooking. Bottles of wine would materialize on the kitchen counter. There was a quid pro quo of reciprocal restaurant meals in South Beach. We might take them to Madison Square Gardens for a game, they’d take us to see a Broadway show. They’d bring home coffee beans and bagels; I’d lay in lox and cream cheese. At some point during the visit, there would be the opportunity for quiet conversation wherein confidences were exchanged and the relationship deepened. You’d bid each other ‘good night’ at the top of the stairs and feel all warm and fuzzy about your relationship. When they left, the bath and bed linens were deposited in the laundry room and a florist delivered flowers the following day.

We missed them when they were gone.

Photo from Unsplash

But the good house guests made it all worthwhile.

And then there were the other ones.

The ones that sat expectantly at the breakfast table and asked what the plans were for the day.

The ones who only ate non-GMO chia seeds with oat milk but who had failed to mention this. The ones who would make themselves Rueben sandwiches and leave sauerkraut, corned beef, mustard and frying pans on the counter waiting for the kitchen fairy to clean up. The one who made popcorn at three in the morning – Oh, did I wake you?! – explaining something about jet lag and time zones. The ones who took half hour showers and who were disappointed the towels weren’t organic cotton.

“Every house guest brings you happiness. Some, when they arrive and others, when they are leaving.”

Being a good house guest takes a bit of scholarship. You can’t just presume that you’re doing it well. Newspapers used to offer etiquette columns that helped us learn the ropes for so many social situations but the information can still be found. And maybe it’s not a bad idea to keep the existence of your guest room on the down low. At the very least, no one could blame you for having a preemptive excuse at the ready.  After all, even Confucius acknowledged the complexities around hosting guests.

“Every house guest brings you happiness.

Some, when they arrive and others, when they are leaving.”

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This week’s question for readers:


Submissions to last week’s question:

Do you keep chickens in the city? Thinking about it?

I was in Grade 7 at Lord Kitchener in Dunbar. I had a friend who was moving and she had a rooster named Charlie who needed a new home. I asked my parents if Charlie could come and live with us and they said yes. We brought him home. He seemed to be settling in throughout the evening, so we said good night to my new pet rooster. The next morning before dawn, Charlie started to crow. When I went outside to try to quiet him down, he took one look at me and flew over the fence into the neighbour’s yard. I went next door, and he proceeded to fly into the next neighbour’s yard. Charlie continued to crow and fly his way down the block going from yard to yard. I  got my parents. With Charlie’s cage in tow, we followed his crowing down the street and managed to get him in the cage after much fluttering, scratched arms and fury on all sides. It was decided that Charlie would go to my aunt’s home in Coquitlam to live with her chickens.

Clifford Bell

We’ve been farming for over 40 years so we’re very used to farm noise.  Last summer one of our neighbours decided it would be fun to have half a dozen chickens for their grandkids’ amusement.  Unfortunately, that included a rooster. In the summer and throughout the fall it wakes us up every day between 5:15 and 5:30am and every few minutes thereafter until eightish. Then it crows infrequently throughout the day.  The neighbours say they don’t hear it. Really? We’ve asked them a few times and they’ve told us the rooster isn’t  going to go.  It hasn’t. I never thought I’d say this but what a blessing to have these dark winter mornings. Nobody needs a rooster if they only want eggs.  It’s insanity and so very, very inconsiderate. 

Cherry Groves 

Your topic sends me back to the ‘40s when chickens were common backyard additions.  Billy Boy was his name – cantankerous old bird in charge of 12 bantam hens at my grandparents’ place in Boundary Bay.  A visiting great aunt was inspecting the vegetable garden one day when suddenly Billy Boy flew at her, claws first, tearing her silk stockings. This feisty old bird had met his match.  She grabbed Billy, turned to Grandma and asked, “Is this the bird you were complaining about?” whereupon she wrung his neck then and there!  Unbeknownst to my sister and I visiting on school break, we had him for dinner that night.  To this day, I marvel at the fortitude of early women. Imagine being able to dispatch a chicken, pluck it, degut it and serve it for dinner that night.  We’ve lost a lot but at least we seem to be getting the chickens back.

June Macdonald

When Vancouver permitted four backyard hens I seriously considered it – for about 15 seconds! I once had a greenhouse, THAT was a 365 day/year obligation.  But at least no worries about cats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, odours, permits, animal rights groups, holiday backup, etc. Moreover, costs of housing and care ain’t chickenfeed.  So  how many decades to save the cost of a dozen eggs weekly? Didn’t want to find out! The Vision Council had other wonderful ideas too – please ask about the $22,000 shelter it approved for homeless chicken.  How many chickens crossed this road?  What per cent were repatriated, euthanized, reformed and so on? Never heard a word.

Richard Hankin

We were all surprised to discover that an escaped chicken was living across the street from the park where we walked our dogs.  Even though it was just a chicken, people would get quite excited when they saw it.  We tried several times to feed the chicken but it wanted nothing to do with us. At night the chicken flew up into a tree to roost in safety. Weeks went by and then one day we found a mass of feathers on the boulevard. It was conclusive proof that our feral chicken had met a bad end and had become a meal for a wily coyote.

C. Dhatt

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