The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 13 July

Dear Thomas, In March I was invited to visit the newly acquired harbourside holiday home of an old friend ‘for a night or two’. As it was a 150-mile trip one way, I opted to go for two nights so that we would have one full day together to explore the area.

When I arrived, bearing flowers and wine, I was shown around the new house, including the guest room which had a lovely view of the garden and sea and an en-suite bathroom. My hostess, however, decided to put me up in the ‘guest annex’, which had neither and was cold, as the bed in the guest room was unmade. The next morning she asked if I had brought a book to read, as she was busy. I went out for a walk on the beach by myself, but by this time I was feeling very unwelcome. After a light lunch, I suggested it might be better if I left but she offered to take me for a walk around a local nature reserve by way of entertainment.

In the evening, I treated her to fish and chips from a takeaway as she didn’t feel like cooking. She then retired to bed early for some ‘me time’ and didn’t reappear until 8.30 the next morning, by which time I’d packed my bag in the car and was ready to leave.

Surely this is not a normal way to treat a guest who has driven a long way to visit you! The whole experience left me traumatised and it took several weeks to recover my spirits. Sarah Young, Kent

Dear Sarah,
I’ve mentioned this before: a second/holiday home is what we all dream of, but once we’ve got one, all sorts of hideousness arises. It turns out to be too far away. The longed-for visitors either don’t materialise, or if they do, well... nobody had quite realised the effort required to entertain them. Looking on the bright side, maybe your friend was trying to establish a casual come-and-go-as-you-please environment for her guests in her new place, but went about it in rather a clumsy fashion.

Was it really necessary to go as far as not having a nice warm room ready for you? Especially on a first visit to the property, when it may not be clear how guests should conduct themselves. On the other hand, house guests should be a bit independent.

Hosts need to be able to get on with routine tasks to some extent. They can’t be expected to drop everything to entertain their guests round the clock. She might not have realised the drawbacks of the annex. Perhaps you should have said you’d make the bed in the other guest room yourself. Or offered to cook.

These are either teething problems or terminal. Give your friend a chance.

Please write to Thomas at the usual Bedford Street address or email


WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Sun loungers


i’ve been saving this one up. back in january thomas Cook announced its ‘Choose your favourite sunbed’ scheme, launched in 30 hotels this summer. for a £22 supplement, holidaymakers can pore over an online map and bag their desired lounger.

The initiative is said to follow on from unseemly videos posted online showing british tourists at the crack of dawn, racing to secure their places around the pool. i appreciate that you go on holiday for a rest rather than lying awake all night worrying about your place in the lounger hierarchy. but all this booking in advance – doesn’t it take the edge off things a little? Why can’t the hotels devise a rota so everybody gets a go in the best places?

At my garden opening the other day, visitors held back from buying plants for fear of depriving others. even better would be if hotel guests themselves came up with a community-minded system for sharing the loungers. then nobody has to pay a £22 supplement and the tourist industry doesn’t get yet another chance to fleece.