When Carolyn Bourne sent her future daughter-in-law Heidi Withers an email accusing her of being uncouth and bad mannered, lots of people sympathised with Heidi thinking the poor girl was burdened with a mother-in-law from hell.
Yet, on a second reading of the offensive email, which went viral after Heidi passed it on to friends, many people expecting house guests this summer gulped in anticipation of what horror might lie ahead of them.
Hotels are out of many people's reach and eating out in restaurants isn't cheap either, so it's natural people living in scenic spots or in the city are offering bed and board to friends and family in need of a break.
On foot of Carolyn Bourne's listing her future daughter-in-law Heidi's failings as a guest, you might be wondering what hell you've let yourself in for -- or how much bed rest you'll need afterwards -- if you're one of those people who has extended an open invite to all and sundry.
For a quick recap, Heidi's behaviour was described by her future mother-in-law as being "staggering in its uncouthness and lack of grace".
The 29-year-old woman was accused of staying in bed late and holding up the rest of the family's plans, of complaining about the food and then helping herself to more than her share, cracking inappropriate jokes about family members, being attention seeking and exhaustingly competitive, and failing to send a card thanking her hosts for their hospitality.
Who wouldn't be left tearing their hair out if this was indeed how a guest behaved? In fact, although it sounds less torturous than Cameron Diaz visiting her sister (played by Toni Collette) in the film In Her Shoes, and helping herself to her sister's money, car and lover, a guest taking all the food would pretty much cause any host to flip.
Yet are there ways of sorting out charmless and ungrateful guests without sending an email which results in you being accused of being -- as florist Carolyn Bourne was -- a "snotty Miss Fancy Pants?"
>What to do when a guest shows up early
This also applies to a guest showing up late, as any lack of attention to the timing of a visit has the same subtext -- their time is more important than yours, as is their life, career, partner, children etc.
Solve this simply by giving a guest a job should they show up early, like changing bed clothes or giving the bathroom the wipe you intended to, or chopping veggies or sending them out to get the wine in. They won't be so quick to be early the next time they come.
Should they arrive insultingly late, then you should not still be in. Heck, if they don't think your time is valuable enough for them to arrive on time, then why should you think that leaving them standing at the door for a half hour is in any way bad?
>What to do when a guest takes over the bathroom
They spill the contents of their toilet bag over every surface, and make extra space for their moisturiser and fake tan and tweezers by pushing your stuff off shelves.
They take the longest time having a shower, leave wet towels on the floor, and brush their hair over the sink and leave it full of hairs.
In this instance rudeness must be met with rudeness -- by you helping yourself to a guest's expensive body products.
You may think that unscrewing the top of someone else's moisturiser is both unhygienic and bad form, yet do it just once and see just how quickly an annoying array of beauty products is tidied up and put away.
>What to do when
a guest helps Themselves to the contents of your fridge
If food is vanishing from the fridge despite you providing three square meals a day, write up a shopping list of what's gone missing and present it to them, asking if they wouldn't mind popping down to the shops. Should they ask you for money for the shopping, then it's clear that you're dealing with selfish and unscrupulous guests.
If you have the nerve, tell them you have no money in your wallet, and then forget to pay them back. If this is too difficult for you to do, then for dinner that night cook something you know they dislike, and make no alternative available -- except maybe a pot of salty porridge.
>What to do when a guest won't go to bed
They insist on having one last glass of wine or one last cup of tea, and keep talking in spite of evidence that you are falling asleep -- for example you have your eyes closed and are snoring.
They follow you into your bedroom after you have made a run for it, and carry on the conversation while sitting on the edge of your bed. They thump you on the leg to make a point, and to keep you awake.
As much as you love a lie-in, set your alarm clock for 6am, and get up and put the radio on really loudly, and wake them up. If you're really fed up, put Black Sabbath on the CD player.
>What to do when a guest invites people you don't know into your home
You have told them to make themselves at home, yet arriving home to find they have invited pals they haven't seen in yonks over to your place for a catch-up -- and to find them drinking your wine and eating your roast chicken -- is not exactly what you had in mind.
You simply meant they shouldn't feel too embarrassed to make a cup of tea if they fancied one.
You have no choice but to greet their friends warmly, however if you're being taken advantage of, you may as well take advantage back.
Tell them you need to pop out for a short while and leave the children with them, and then go for a long relaxing walk, or for a well-earned couple of drinks in the pub.