If you are anything like me the idea of having to play host makes you feel a little queasy. I have never been good at planning special little events for guest… even in London, a place where there is always something to do.
So, as I have now waved off both friends onto their next adventures, I felt it would be safe to share a few of my “entertaining in London” secrets with you all. Just in case you find yourselves in the same predicament as I did where sitting in the dark watching endless episode of American Dad will no longer hack it.
Hosting (Accidental Style)
To really kick off friend number one’s visit start as you mean to go on by arriving at the bus station half an hour late and sweaty (you got lost, confused and angry on the way, turns out you don’t know London as well as you thought). Friends will really appreciate the early morning standing around experience. Plus they can watch all the London buses and get used to cars being on the wrong side of the road – my lateness benefited them really.
Speed River Walk and Lunch:
Drag friend one out into the sunshine with a vague plan of what to do with them. Randomly decide the Thames is nice so sprint past all the boring buildings – Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the whole of Waterloo/South Bank on the way to the Thames beaches. Spout useless information and made up facts as you go – you’re not sure but you think it has a tide and yes the plague is still living in the water. Arrive at St Paul’s and wander aimlessly around the outside pretending you know how to get home from here, try your best to make up excuses not to go in (that cost £20pp!!!!). Choose a random direction and end up in Leister Square – spend £20 on two coffees and a sandwich in super nice hipster cafe- lie about the exchange rate and pretend that is a normal price…. Die inside….
I’m a firm believer in independence, so upon arriving at Chez Lulu one is given a vague, whirlwind training about how to make your way home using the landmarks on the horizon – they line up I swear. This is accompanied with a brief disclaimer about if you get lost on the opposite side of said landmarks it’s your own fault. This was all friend one got before I legged it out the door to work, leaving him to wander around alone and hope they made it back before I finished work.
An unexpected day off on day two suddenly meant that I had to put effort into thinking of something exciting to do.
I opted for the time-old saviour of Parents, teachers and crappy hosts alike by taking friend one to the Natural History Museum (this was mainly selfish as I wanted to check on my Dino friends and the giant sloth… it’s been a while). I was in luck, friend one had this on the list of things to do in London and so was delighted to be carted off unceremoniously to the building full of dead things.
Ditch Again (that’s ultimate hosting):
As you drift peacefully around the stuffed pelicans and bits of rock you suddenly realise that friend number two is due to arrive in fifteen minutes and you are a good half an hour from the station. Abandon friend one to do the second floor of the museum alone (they’ll be fiiiiiine!). Remember as you leg it through the underground that friend one is an idiot who did not take their phone with them. Collect friend two and make them take an hour bus journey on the hottest bus in the world through rush hour traffic because you couldn’t be bothered with the 10-minute tube journey (never admit this to them). Ply friend two with tea and cake. Two hours later begin to panic about friend one who has still not returned. Plan elaborate rescue missions then remember you’re an idiot and couldn’t even find you’re way out of the museum earlier. Try and keep agitated pacing to a minimum in front of friend two as you battle with the guilt of ditching friend one. Trick yourself into believing that it will just add to their adventure in London.
Embrace the British:
Once friend one has reappeared and forgiven you, drag both off to the park equipped with beers to experience the true British summer time. Sit amongst the stoners and fitness freaks in Battersea Park. Once all beer has been consumed drag everyone out for late night fish and chips, panic when you realise you know of nowhere to sit – friend two is strangely averted to walking the ten minute back home to eat there….. end up sitting on the benches in front of the British Passport Office shoving battered fish into your face (this counts as cultural right?). After completing your tour of British cuisine suddenly realise your friends are demanding a bar…. remember area you live in is made for old people and there are only old man pubs. Throw a mini tantrum and force them into a rubbish pub at closing time as neither friend will cooperate or get the tube to somewhere more interesting. Return home and sit on the roof with a bottle of rum and your amazing flatmate as compensation for the crappy nightlife in the area.
Wave them off in style:
Both friends were leaving at different times on the same day. Friend two at six in morning, friend two in the evening – guess which one I hate the most now….! As I dragged myself out of bed and tried to make my drunken legs cooperate on the seventy-five million stairs my house is made up of I was cursing friends two’s name.
As we approached the bus station it turned out friend two had not remembered to buy a ticket (damn non-Londoners!) and there was a panic standing in the queue as he tried to force PayPal to work, whilst still being pretty smashed. With friend two safely off to his next destination, friend one and I crawled our way home via Gregs for bacon rolls and doughnuts (standing outside waiting for Greg’s to open on a Saturday morning was an experience).
As I was now out of ideas (and energy and fucks to give) I opted for the easy way out of entertaining by suggesting a true British Picnic in the Park. We stocked up on all the M&S tapas collection and juice we could carry before waddling our way to Green Park. Here we stayed in the blissful sunshine. The smugness of knowing I had entertained everyone during their visit by just feeding them in different locations or getting them drunk, washed over me. A little part of me hoped it would rain on our picnic so that the experience of summer in the U.K. would be complete.
Wave them off in Style (Revisited):
Once you have completed the picnic, walk slowly back home (it’s impossible to walk too fast after feasting on hummus and ham) via the pub for Pimms as a last minute “this is British summer time” experience. Suddenly realise friend one is just as unorganised as friend two and have a last minute panic pack session before sprinting to the coach station where the angry bus people scream at you and complain about there being no time (I don’t understand why they are so angry… is it the fluorescent jackets?!?). Wave off friends unceremoniously as they hurl themselves onto the coach.
Crawl your way back home and dive under the bed covers to sleep for a hundred years, satisfied in the knowledge that you no longer need to offer others cups of tea. Operation entertain guests complete.
As you regress back to watching American Dad tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if they enjoyed themselves or not…. At least no-one died.
I hope you have found this guide useful, I’d love to hear about some of the tricks you guys use when you have to entertain guests. Feel free to comment and share below. Happy entertaining.