Patience is a virtue. But virtue can only be stretched so far – and one of the times when its elasticity is truly tested ‘til it twangs back, is by the overstaying guest. After all, entertaining is one of the great pleasures of life. Good company, good food, plentiful wines - these are the things which keep us soldiering on in bad times and going cock-a-hoop in the good. Parties enlarge the spirit and soothe the soul. But, as with most things in life, they can quickly take a turn for the worst.
And the worst usually comes at about 2am when you are trying to wash the dishes in your kitchen as a motley crew of associates clog the aisles, with seemingly no desire to leave.
So, to help you avoid this ignominy – we bring you a Penhaligon’s guide to getting rid of overstaying guests without being rude.
Technique one: be in good spirits, but don’t offer strong spirits
A good host always provides their guests with plenty to drink. But a tired good host definitely oughtn’t. Before dinner or lunch or a picnic there should be plenty of cocktails or champagne. During the do – say “no wine glass should be empty, it’s offensive!” as one certain British host was known to say to get things going. But when things are winding down, don’t offer round the spirits. As the proverb says: “wine is a mocker but strong drink is raging” and they’ll be raging all night in your sitting room.
Technique two: bore off
One divinity don at Oxford was known to offer the following when guests overstayed lunch: “we just thought we’d say a psalm now, if you have the time?” Oddly enough, very few of those who had supped at his table did have time for a psalm and then he could happily snooze until dinner. If you aren’t a divinity don or a bishop, you need to dig deep and think up your own activity that many would find boring – a post-port game of scrabble, perhaps? Monopoly? A sing-song, maybe?
Technique three: drop hints, don’t throw insults
Your home is your castle but you don’t want it to become a battlefield. Or a siege, for that matter. So, bluntness of the “oh do sod off now”, should only be deployed with close relatives or even closer friends. What you want to do instead is drop subtle or even unsubtle hints, along the lines of: a dreamy yawn, a stretch of the arms, perhaps combined with you resting your head on your partner's shoulder and slowly letting your eyelids fall like feathers. Even the most inebriated guest will get the message.
Technique four: suck it up
If all of the above have failed, then you must conclude that your friend is a toad or else they are very drunk. In which case you must do what no one ever wants to do but which is sometimes impossible to avoid: find some manner of cleaning device – a hoover or a leaf blower - and put it directly in their eye-line. It is the most polite slap in the face ever known.
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