The Italian farmhouse has charm and rustic chic. We have escaped from the hurly burly of everyday life, we’re away from civilisation and the wild life around us is unexpectedly spectacular. Five minutes ago I saw a racoon ‘springing’ through the long grass about ten metres from my chair!. Seeing his joy in being alive really lifted my already high spirits. We are unwinding by the day and at the same time learning to contend with an idiosyncratic house and contents. That’s why I’m contemplating starting a new business for home owners who want to rent out their properties to friends, family or the wider world – I’ll call it ‘Grandma Checks it Out’
It was two days ago, when our toilet began to entertain us quite dramatically, I felt a sense of déjà vu. I almost laughed out loud as I thought of the vagaries of international plumbing and other problems that are often part and parcel of renting a house and that’s when the idea of ‘Grandma Checks it Out’ began to develop.
Over a lifetime I have enjoyed the delights and foibles of a range of other people’s homes and rooms from Croatia to China, Fiji to France and now, Italy ; farmhouses, rooms and boats where the owner has smiled indulgently (usually from the UK) admiring the perfect getaway they have created and are now successfully letting to paying guests. But, have they checked it out? Have they got the list of small but crucial jobs for their man or woman on the ground. I mean if you have a dishwasher surely it makes sense to provide dishwasher tablets? Note to self: That might account for the very greasy residue on plates, bowls and cutlery.
The idea of ‘grandma’ checking it out could be a practical service that is long overdue. For owners it’s about getting the basics sorted before the season starts and the first guests arrive. For guests it’sanother seal of approval that you’re staying somewhere where small but important things have been checked out and most things work.
Grandma’s First rule of thumb: provide fresh drinking water for your guests.
Being welcomed with fresh cool (bottled) water is a kind and thoughtful touch. Although it may not always be necessary in my recent trip we arrived in scorching Italian heat on a remote mountain farm ( five miles from the village shops) only to discover we had left the bottles of water in the supermarket twenty miles away.
The House Information sheet was clear ‘Do NOT drink the water from the taps because it comes from our well’.
It was a heart stopping moment. We’d traveled from the U.K. on a very hot day, we were late arriving and in our haste forgot to pick up that large pack of bottled water with other provisions in the supermarket.
Fortunately, and much to our relief, some bottled water was located by the man who let us in, from an empty nearby house and we replaced it the next day. Phew! Time to break open the wine !
Next on Grandma’s check list (apart from a clean house) would be ensuring that your shining bright home is clear of ‘Stuff’! The owner’s overflow ‘stuff’ or the last guest’s ‘forgotten stuff.’ It’s amazing what I have looked at, lived with and stepped over during stays in holiday homes. Everything from half stuffed animals and Indonesian kayaks to candelabra, decrepit tennis rackets and nets with holes in, plus a plethora of almost empty bottles of shampoo medicines and creams.
This is an easy check and then an action plan can be provided for the cleaner. For example, ‘Remove all opened and used toiletries and cosmetics in the bathrooms and bedrooms, place in a cardboard box and store them in the attic cupboard’ Similarly detritus and debris such as old newspapers, out of date leaflets and trash needs chucking out before your guests arrive.
Many of the homes I’ve stayed in have attractive artifacts and whilst these usually add to the character of the place old tablecloths or bed linen that looks washed up dontc do your house any favours. it’s time to check in to TK Max or IKEA.
In the cold days of winter its fun to look at the photos, read the description and imaginie the warm sunshine and a clean house. Seeing other people’s personal possessions adds to the excitement and fun; you often gain an insight into their lives and you can ‘Imagine’ yourself living the life!
If you’ve been reading my current blogs you’ll have read about the wonderful bits of the Umbrian experience. But holidays are full of ‘added interest’ so I’ve been spurred into writing a fuller picture of this and previous holiday lets.
Experience shows that sometimes the reality is different to the one you read about and imagined; no hanging space in any wardrobe, every drawer stuffed with so many objects once treasured by the family’s offspring, Action Men, Barbie Dolls, Nintendo, old Nokia phones, deflated plastic swimming rings, hair bands and suntan lotions well past their apply by date.
Grandma’s check list suggests providing at least one clean empty cupboard with some decent coat hanger, space for a dress or pair of trousers plus an empty drawer and a place for T shirts and swim wear. Not much to ask is it?
Furniture and furnishings can also be instructive and challenging. In one French house we had an old table with three rather decrepit chairs and a fourth that had one leg propped up by a pile of big hard-back books. In the Master bedroom the large bed was supported on the far side by bricks. That was an interesting experience.
The owners met us at the ‘villa’ and as we arrived, thrust the keys into our hands and scurried into their car muttering “ We’ve just finished cleaning”. They then reversed rapidly round the old farmyard and raced off into the distance . We were astonished at what we found when we went in. (My daughter remembers the mould on the Oxo cube in the kitchen cupboard. It was green and had managed to eat its way through the foil wrapper! )
Fortunately the weather was wonderful, we spent most of the time at the local pool and the children thought it was fantastic to camp in the barn with the hay! That was the time we asked for our money to be returned since the house in no way matched the fulsome description they had given us months earlier over a glass of wine in London.
Kitchens and cooking utensils reveal a lot about the owner. Definitely worth Grandma checking it out. To discover a kitchen with sticky plates and a pile of washing up left to dry for days on the draining board is disheartening and doesn’t help you settle in. Feeling a need to start cleaning before using sticky utensils isn’t a good start.
Oh for one sharp knife!
Oh for a non furry lime scale free kettle (saves money if the lime scale is cleared)
I want a corkscrew that works
Same goes for the tin opener.
If you provide a dishwasher I’d love some dishwasher tablets too!
A box of matches left beside the candle in case of power cuts please.
Oh and lots of other simple things grandmas know all about
So here we are a jaunty posse of experienced ladies of a certain age who travel well and are happy to help you and your guests enjoy your place in the sun.
We’ll happily check out your place. Our only condition is Grandmas always start by checking the pool, sun loungers and pillows on the beds.