Staying with friends

Monday, September 25, 2006

One of the great things about the jobs that I used to have, which required a lot of business travel, is that I now have a network of people who I know around the world. Some of them are more friends than just business acquaintances, which has the extra benefit of providing a cheap place to stay when I visit certain cities. I’ve been travelling for the past 8 days to London and southern France, and stayed with friends the whole time, which was great. In a hotel, I would have spent more time hanging out on my own, ordering crappy food from room service and watching bad TV; this way, I had family dinners, pleasant chats and managed to attend two birthday parties.

Of course, there’s always the bits that aren’t quite as convenient. My friends in London are outside the city which creates some logistical issues with the transportation to my business meetings. They also have three small kids, and the spare bedroom is the kid’s playroom; early Thursday morning, a 1-year-old crawled on in and serenaded me on a xylophone. That in turn led me to forget that I had left a pair of panties that I had washed by hand hanging on the back of the bedroom/playroom door, something that I remembered two days later when I was in France. Thong panties, to be precise. Luckily, my friend found them when she was tidying up for the 1-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday, and we had a laugh about it when I returned on Sunday.

This trip was primarily about the conference that I was speaking about in London, and the trip to France was purely to see my friends in Tourouzelle. She’s just starting to sell real estate down there, and it’s very tempting to consider a little cottage in a French village — food and wine are very inexpensive down there, property prices are still pretty reasonable, and the countryside is very pretty. On the other hand, she did hit a wild boar with her car on the way to a property showing the other day, not something that’s likely to happen in downtown Toronto. Unfortunately, she only stunned it in spite of the major damage that it did to the front corner of her car, so there was no wild boar for dinner.

It’s always interesting to stay with another couple, especially one that you don’t see very often, to see the dynamics of their particular coupledom. For example, I’m shocked that the father of three young kids whose wife works can possibly imagine that she’s going to do all the child care as well as all the cooking and housework, although there’s definitely two complicit in that arrangement. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how a couple that used to spar quite openly now seem much closer in the face of some financial setbacks.

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