Sunday 8 December 2019

Nightwatch: How not to be an inept kept mate

Declan Cashin

Gallivanting. Isn't that just the best word ever? I love it so much that I'm going to say it again just for the heck of it. Gallivanting. It's the word that best sums up my life over the past four months, along with its inevitable companion 'houseguest'.

Like governing coalition partners or passengers on the Luas, 'gallivanting' and 'houseguest' are concepts that more often than not sit uneasily and testily alongside one another, and yet it's in all our interests that we make the partnership work as best we can.

That's because most of us -- to put it rather indelicately -- don't have a pot to piss in these days, and so any weekend or short breaks away now depend more than ever on the availability of the spare rooms, sofas, floors and bathtubs of various friends, relatives, colleagues and -- through the rather terrifying phenomenon of 'couch-surfing' -- strangers in order to curb travel costs.

I know that, for many people, letting folk crash at your place for either a fixed or indeterminate amount of time belongs firmly in the "neither a borrower nor a lender be" advice category on smooth, pain-free social interactions, and we all surely have borne witness to some truly shocking violations of the unwritten code of conduct that operates between guests and their hosts.

I've been both lately -- inn-keeper and inn-kept -- so it seems a good opportunity for a crash course on crashing, the dos and don'ts of being a houseguest, and pondering just how much you should be willing to put up with when you put someone up.


  • Keep your belongings under control. Nobody wants to be drunkenly tripping over your case or stepping bleary eyed and barefoot onto your dirty underwear.
  • Be mindful of bathroom etiquette: don't leave "special presents" in and/or around the bowl or spend an hour in the shower using up all the hot water. And if you fail to remove hair from the plug hole and/or gloopy beard/stubble trimmings from the sink, then no court in the land would convict any host who subsequently tortured you and offered you up to form part of a real-life version of The Human Centipede.
  • At least make the empty gesture of offering to take the air mattress/couch even if the host insists on you commandeering their bed instead. It's only polite.
  • Offer to cook one evening or pay for take-out. Or, better yet, arrive at the gaff arms festooned with duty free bags stuffed with boxes of wine, cans of champagne and bottles of pre-mixed vodka tonics. Now that's classy.


  • Be too critical of your host's lodgings. Watch out for more subtle forms of criticism such as excessively cleaning the place and doing lots of housework while there. You might think you're pulling your weight, but it could be (mis)construed as a dismissive commentary on their own housekeeping. Even if your host is a pig.
  • Have relations with someone in/on your host's bed and/or couch without the express, unambiguous permission of the owner in question. Imagine the icky awkwardness if they find out about it afterwards, or, worse yet, come home late or unexpectedly to find you in the middle of the horizontal love dance? Or, even worser, wake up in the middle of the night to see/hear/feel your shenanigans on the other side/end of the bed?
  • On that note, don't hit on or even try to seduce anyone else residing in your host's place. For an object lesson in the perils of this endeavour -- or, if you really insist, a how-to-guide -- consult episode 4 of season 1 of Nighty Night.
  • Pick a row with your host's live-in partner and/or housemates. Simply avoid any hot-button topics that are sure to cause division and disharmony like politics, religion, money and Cheryl's final picks for The X Factor.
  • Invite others back for a party or to stay the night. That's making serious, consequential decisions while in a position that's further and further removed from your original mandate. Look how well that's gone down for Brian Cowen and Fianna Fail.
  • Overstay your welcome. A good rule of thumb? Don't stay in that place longer than a fresh carton of milk. Otherwise, everything just starts to curdle.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top