"IT is a privilege," Elizabeth Jolley wrote, "to prepare the place where someone else will sleep."
She must have been a wonderful host and, by definition, quite the masochist.
Being able to capture so elegantly the profundity of what it means to put another soul under one's roof means Jolley - like anyone else who concerns themselves with fresh linen at the hint of overnight company; who slaves under the ticking of the kitchen clock, whose definition of a bathroom "once over" is a Gattaca-esque four-day forensic campaign against grime - must have known the double-edged sword of hospitality.
Being a host to your core is as inescapable as your DNA, as fundamental as sexuality. It is the grief of unrequited love pricked with moments of brief joy. It is pride and satisfaction and disappointment.
It is complex.
While certainly not the same species, a pathological host is on the same family tree as "givers", those who bend over backwards to please others. Givers are wretched creatures, hell-bent on oblivion, whose purpose remains unfulfilled until they've been taken advantage of, usually by "takers'', their cosmically essential halves.
There is now, apparently, a subspecies out there called "matchers". Who cares what they do, they sound completely made up.
Unlike unhinged givers and venal takers, to be a host is to be unassailable, incorruptible. Hosts are the embodiment of the bricks and mortar shielding all who seek succour within.
Hosts are stoic and beyond reproach because they have to be; if the host falls, the whole system crumbles.
Hosts are sharks effortlessly pushing the weight of the ocean aside, untroubled by the opportunists nibbling at their gills, suction-cupped to their white bellies.
Indeed, last year's darling of the film circuit, Parasite, seems to assign, if not the home owners, then the home itself, an almost eternal, fortress quality, as all manner of giving and taking respires in its bowels.
Our homes are intimate power, to share them is to share that power and that intimacy.
Perhaps the only thing more spectacularly wrong than a host in meltdown, is when a host turns on those they're supposed to be sheltering. The Red Wedding GoT us all right between the eyes because it was a host breaking the golden rule, a rule we learn from the very beginning.
As soon as they're old enough to have a friend over, we impress upon our children, as little kings and queens of the castle, little wardens of the north, the importance of grace and sacrifice. Just at the time of life when it is beginning to dawn, we insist they swallow their sense of injustice as their so-called contemporaries turn up to receive extra attention, extra ice cream, extra Phenergan. Our kids must accept the fact that simply by materialising with a smelly blanket and trembling bottom lip, their mates have morphed into the semi-deity known as a "guest".
And while being a good host is inextricably linked with being house proud (nothing like a little residual praise) any hovel-owner is susceptible to the condition because fundamental to hosting is the surrendering of one's sanctum, whatever form it takes.
Mi casa es su casa.
My wife and I are good hosts. We love to share our hovel. We work hard to make things perfect for our guests. We are home bodies who want the mountain to come to Mohammed (no need to bring anything) and when he arrives, we'll take the mountain's coat, ply him with gin and tonic and let him sleep undisturbed until noon Sunday.
We both know that in their song, Your Party, Gene and Dean Ween are taking the mickey out of desperados such as ourselves, but we can't help but lend a half-serious ear to their withering lyrics ... There were candy and spices and tricoloured pastas ... I dreamt about maybe throwing a party And just how great that would be ...
Ironically, when in the care of someone else, good hosts need very little to feel looked after themselves.
"The toilet's down the backyard."
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Aside from the constant gnaw of rejection, host tragics fear being consumed by their disease. The real danger is when one allows the same impulses to begin governing those part of life which don't deserve such devotion.
On our patch, we are guilty of having overdone it.
We've built Taj Mahals for pointers and poultry, we've erected vegie garden beds of Babylon and we've festooned trees with timber boxes to re-pardalote the entire planet - all with degrees of success, none commensurate with the degrees of effort.
The dogs and ducks thrived until they died, we've harvested a few tomatoes and maybe hatched a finch or two.
You'd think we'd learn our lesson but the host gene is dominant (and domineering) and we threw ourselves with familiar gusto into our latest project - bees.
As usual, we prepared within an inch our lives, wanting our guests to feel at home.
We shelled out for a stack of glorified Styrofoam boxes and bought the requisite PPE; we cleared a prime spot blessed with a north-easterly aspect and dappled shade, we constructed wind breaks, insulated, mowed and clipped and pruned.
Just as all was in readiness, an apiarist friend found a coveted swarm and delivered it to us on a perfect spring day, as if it were meant to be. In no time, we were transfixed, as our industrious VIBs made our garden their own, visiting burgeoning ranunculus, azaleas and grevilleas; pollinating, energising and generally vouchsafing a sense of completeness for which we didn't even know we yearned.
Once again, we'd proven ourselves to be great hosts. A kind of hubris washed through us as we pictured pantries glistening with jars gifted by Aristaeus himself, a celebrated stall at the farmer's market and, eventually, some kind of hippy permaculture award.
When bees inexplicably leave a hive, it's called "absconding" as though, rather than being much-loved members of an adoring family, they are fugitives, desperate to escape the clutches of a tyrannical jailer.
Barely a week since its installation, our hive now sits silent and empty in a corner of the outdoor room we felt so privileged to prepare.
We are bereft, racked with the guilt of the bad host. We are Ron Sexsmith's Mother in confusion, her cradle still unfilled.
All we can do is wait for a new bundle of joy to somehow find its way into our home.
Next time, we'll do it right.
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