Surviving a visit to a UK, American, Arabian or Australian home

There is always that moment when you are a guest in a UK household in which you realize that you have no control over the evening. You ask for port and are given sherry. You ask for Diet Coke and are given tea. And I won’t tell you the horrors that await you in terms of desserts. Let us draw a shade over them. (Well, fine, I will give you a hint, a word of warning: raisins. Lots of raisins.)

American households present you with the opposite problem: an overabundance of choices. You retreat into a corner and ask only for water but this will not deter them: Do you want still, sparkling, with vitamins, with a straw, ice in cubes or shaved? Your cries for mercy go unheeded: Do you want rhubarb-strawberry-kiwi-watermelon flavored water or rhubarb-strawberry-kiwi-watermelon-cherry flavored water?

When visiting Middle Eastern households, men must wear baggy trousers with large waterproof pockets and women must carry large, waterproof purses. It’s the only way to survive. Discreetly shovel food off your plate when the host is not looking and you might get up with only having to have your stomach pumped on the way home. The alternative is eating what the host wants you to eat in which case you will be unable to move, so you will be stuck in the host’s house, in which you will be continually force-fed. I know a person who went from 10 stone to 23 stone in a weekend.

Aussie households are easy. They will throw cans of beer at you (I hope your hand-eye coordination is up to it) and hand you large plates of meat or seafood. You can accept with good grace and feed the vittles to the nearest carnivore as there is always a large bandicoot, jellyfish, marsupial lion, emu, or Tasmanian devil about. Don’t feed (or cuddle) the wombats – they are for decorative purposes only.

In terms of entertainment, a visit to a UK home will involve walking, all the more so if it is rainy, foggy, cold or generally dreary. Nothing like a lovely walk in the drizzle! And when you are back to the house, several large, aromatic dogs, redolent of rotting leaves and covered with mud, will keep you company by sitting on your lap. WEAR OLD TWEEDS.

Americans, Lord love them, have schemes. They have plans. They will want to take you out to see waste-water treatment systems and new skateboard parks and civic wonders like large statues of hamburgers. You will not be allowed to merely sit, off you will hie to take in scenic views (“the municipal dump is the best place to see a large variety of birds”) and urban delights (“I bet you have never seen a pothole that large have you?”). Depending on the season you will be forced to muck around fields and pick strawberry, blueberries, apples, pumpkins or a Christmas tree. Then you get to spend hours cooking, cleaning, carving or decorating the object.

Visits to Arabian homes are relaxing because you will never be asked to move. But that means you are stuck in one chair for hours as people constantly parade by with food which they try to force you to eat. And, as you can’t move, it means you cannot escape whoever wants to talk to you. This mean lots of talking with many people, who are all related but in ways you can’t quite figure out.

Australians home are a paradox. They are the most fun but the most dangerous. You aren’t expected to hike and you can move around if you want to. But you don’t usually want to, what with the Funnel Web spider, Red Back spider, Inand Taipan snake, Tiger snake and paralysis ticks zooming around looking for something to bite. And do not even think of getting near any of that gorgeous tropical water – the stinging stonefish is looking to smote you as few people have ever been smitten, not to mention the Box jellyfish which is known to hold its breath and crawl across meters of hot, burning sand just to sting you as you lay on your beach towel out of pure spite. Much as the dangerous Eastern brown snake can turn itself black to catch you off your guard. Encase yourself in a strong, fine-mesh, steel cage and drink beer.