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ExtraVirgin August 2010
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Home They came, they learned how to pronounce ‘Ayoba’, they watched footy till they could watch no more, and (if the tweets and comments are anything to go by) they had a damn good time.

So, in short, we rock as hosts; we embraced every visitor (no mention of the buck-toothed Saurez, please) who touched down on South African soil, and we all pitched in to make sure the guests had a fantastic time in our sunny country (note, I didn’t say ‘warm’ - anyone who was freezing their brains out at a soccer stadium in that first week of the World Cup would bash me over the head with a bucket if I said ‘warm’).

Having people coming to stay can be traumatic because suddenly, your life is on display (just ask our government officials). Oh no, you think, they’re going to take one look at the gungy bit behind the kitchen sink and spend their stay in fear of catching some sneaky, waterborne disease, moan about low thread counts, and snigger at your choice of sofa cushions. But if you’re a guest in someone else’s home, these are pretty much the last things on your mind. You want a comfortable night’s sleep, privacy, a place to plonk your suitcase, and an easy-to-read map for the purposes of locating the kettle, mugs and teabags in the kitchen.

So if you’re worrying yourself into a stupor to ready your home for guests, forget about trying to have a perfect house, rather concentrate on making a guest room with some four star features.

A safe spot for a travel-weary snooze is top priority, so is the mattress and old saggy one you’ve rejected yourself because you used to wake up after a night on it with a twisted neck and indignant spine? If so, perhaps it’s time to up its game.

Then there’s bedding. A Noddy pillow combined with seventies sheets and a faded floral duvet cover are not boutique hotel chic, no matter how low the lighting. Go for crisp white. It looks clean and inviting and is easy to accessorise. To make it really special, provide a variety of pillows (some feather, some foam) and plenty of cozy extra blankets. Lots of clean, non-disintegrating towels are also a must.

Here are some additions that could make all the difference:

  • a setting-down-a-suitcase spot
    (a small table or bench)

  • a bedside table with a reading lamp

  • a carafe of water and a clean glass

  • a waste bin

  • a whole lot of nothing: ie, remove the clutter and junk you normally store in the room, (last season’s clothes and sewing machine parts, for instance)

Finally, remember that if you’re relaxed, there’s a good chance your guest will be too, so rather than flapping about perfection, take a page out of South Africa’s book, and aim to have as much fun as the visitors do.