My Downton Abbey Daydream Has Died

We recently met a couple who put us on to a new idea to stretch our travel budget: house-sitting. The basic idea is that you agree to watch someones’ pet (insert: Cobra, horse, dog, Macaw, cat, rabbit, Iguana, other?) in exchange for lodging in their (insert: fabulous, country, modern, estate, oceanfront, cottage, castle) home whilst they sip umbrella drinks somewhere exotic and wonderful. Portugal comes to mind.

Only a fool would refuse such an offer. I am no fool. So we swiftly joined a house-sitting service, drafted our earnest resume, and waited for offers to swamp our Inbox. And we waited…and waited. Finally! An inquiry came in with an offer: Mind six show jumpers in Cambridge for a plucky equestrienne whilst she attends the World Equestrian Games in France. “I love horses! Yes, we will do it.” Next offer: Mind three dogs and three cats in a London family home – SkyTV with sports and movies plus fast Wifi! “Yes! Very cute pets. 24/7 Sports Channel bonus. Let’s accept that one too.” Then came an offer to spend three weeks in a charming country home in Yorkshire with two dogs and two cats. “Oh! That sounds lovely. I have tasted Yorkshire pudding and if this assignment is as delicious as that, well, yes, let’s go to Yorkshire.” So here we are, with a fully booked summer house-sitting in England.

It has been 4 days since we arrived at our first assignment. Does anyone remember the 60s American sitcom, Green Acres, starring Eddie Arnold and ZsaZsa Gabor?  Well, this is it. Green Acres: England Edition. It is certainly not Downton Abbey. Oh my! The house is a certifiable shambles torn apart for construction long ago and never reassembled. There is one semi-functional bathroom which has no sink. (Yes, I said NO sink. That’s not me being unreasonable to expect a bathroom sink, is it?) There is a bathtub but the shower hangs its head like a defeated contractor and refuses to work. Carpet and tile surrendered long ago to raw concrete. Boxes of stuff, piles of tools, and heaps of construction materials lie dead wherever they fell. Spiders fall into the teacups like commandos on a raid. Some electrical outlets dangle from wires, alive, but barely. Sigh. My pretty little daydream of three weeks as mistress of Downton Abbey has died.

Beautiful Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

If only reality would cooperate and live up to my daydreams. Like a housesit here, for instance. (Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland.)

We spent our first day washing dirty dishes and scrubbing so there will be somewhere to prepare food. Then, sweeping and vacuuming. Followed by another day of trash removal and organizing. Peter hacked down tall weeds in the garden and removed small trees growing in the gutters.

On the plus side, the lady who lives here is nice and it seems she just needs a break in life. The dogs and cats are loving and sweet. The neighbor’s charming draft horses visit over the fence and there is a raised deck in a wooded yard with chairs. It is quiet.

And it’s only for three weeks. Peter told me to imagine we are camping. “Ok. But Peter, we never, ever go camping.” Aw, never mind. I have a feeling we are making a funny memory.

Soon we will be on to new adventures. My dreams are properly realigned and now I’m just hoping the next house has a bathroom sink. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if the next place could be as good as what my mind conjures up? As the Green Acres theme song goes: “I just adore a penthouse view. Darling, I love you but give me Park Avenue!”