To Receive Guests Is To Take Charge Of Their Happiness
The Aperitif Guy, Features Writer
The French writer J-A Brillat-Savarin once wrote that "to receive guests is to take charge of their happiness during the entire time they are under your roof." That’s quite a responsibility, I know, but I also think it’s a privilege. We “take charge” of someone’s happiness when they have trusted us with it.
When my partner and I got together, we decided we wanted our home to be somewhere people felt able to show up uninvited, where they would always be welcome, regardless of the circumstances. It was a principle I was brought up with. Back in the days before phones in every home, when families couldn’t arrange a visit as easily as we do now, my Mum kept a stash of tinned ham and salmon in the back of the cupboard, ready to be turned into a sandwich supper at a moment’s notice should family or friends come round. I find myself doing the same now, with tins of pâté, jars of olives and bottles of wine. The foods have changed, but the principle’s the same.
The thought of guests arriving unannounced will fill some readers with terror. Perhaps you can’t bear the thought of people seeing your house untidy or think it disrespectful to receive guests into a home you haven’t cleaned. Making sure your home is clean and tidy is an important way to show respect for guests. Of course it is. When we visit people, though, we don’t look for an immaculate house, filled with the smell of lemon and spring flowers. We look for a warm welcome: open conversation, a 2-way sharing of news and a little refreshment. Unless the place stinks of putrefaction, I probably wouldn’t even notice, still less care, how clean the floor is or when the mirror was last polished. Save the cleaning for the days you have planned something special and enjoy the spontaneity of unexpected visits.
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Make your own entertainment
There’s a lot to be said for “making your own entertainment.” Music has such power to bring people together. Think how many of your friends listen to several of the same bands as you? Throwing back the carpet, sticking on iTunes and having a dance can be very freeing. I was once taught a little flamenco at one party in a student house in Liverpool. My cousin plays guitar and lacks nothing in confidence. Family parties often involved him leading a singalong. His repertoire changed little in 40 years, but there are now four generations who know the family take on what passes for backing-vocals to “The Boxer” and who get a little glassy-eyed remembering my aunt’s, slightly tipsy, dance to “Jamaica Farewell.” (I’ll pass over her mime to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!”) For those who enjoy dressing up, there are various scripted murder-mystery kits on sale. You’d be surprised how well shy people respond to being someone else for an evening. Simple role-playing games like Werewolves can be fun, or you can organise a card school if you prefer a more focused style of game.
I’ll finish by coming back to my Mum. She once told me that there are two types of people: those who offer hospitality and those who wait for it to come to them. “Be one of the first, Paul,” she said. “They’re the happier ones.” Hospitality doesn’t have to be any more stressful than the pressure we put ourselves under to do something that’s not in our nature. Good hospitality is simply a matter of inviting people whose company we already enjoy, to share time with us, doing the things we like, in our own home.
The Aperitif Guy has a regular blog at blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk or you can follow him on Twitter @AperitifGuy
To Receive Guests Is To Take Charge Of Their Happiness, 26th June 2019, 11:21 AM