Clare of Brisbane finds herself in the enviable position of being able to turn down offers of house sitting assignments. So why would you say ‘no’ to a seven-week sit in a nice house in your chosen area? What would you do if the owner wanted you to pay for the water you use to keep their massive garden alive during a period of water restrictions in a blazing Queensland summer. Pass!
9 February 2006
I haven’t mentioned so far any of the house sits I have turned down, apart from the one with the 30 parrots! There are three categories of places I turn down – first of all, there are those which I turn down because the dates are not right, they are too far away, there are too many pets or there is otherwise too much work to do – or it involves childcare (!). One of these rejects was right down at Wellington Point, had a dog and a cat and – ‘oh and by the way there is a cow who needs half a bale of hay a day’. This was mentioned as a mere afterthought by the owners in a phone conversation. Another owner wanted me to housesit her ‘two leggered pets’ – namely an 11-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl. I ran like the wind from that one!
The second category of rejects concerns where I think the house might be a possibility, say a tentative yes and with address in hand go and view the outside of the house and the neighbourhood. Again I have turned these down if the house doesn’t look very interesting, if it is on a main road or in an otherwise somewhat depressing or remote suburban neighbourhood.
It is only rarely that I reject a place once I have got to the third stage, namely actually visiting and being interviewed by the home owner. My most recent rejection of this kind was in Corinda. It was a modified old Queenslander with a dog and a garden. The dog (who was quite nice, friendly and small, but not a particularly interesting Australian silkie terrier cross) needed no less than two walks a day. The owners also mentioned some neighbours who liked on occasions taking him for walks ‘for hours and hours’ on weekends. I started to feel an overwhelming need to lie down at this point of the conversation.
There were three fishponds with no filters or fountains which needed regular topping up with treated water and dozens and dozens of hanging plants in addition to a huge garden which also included a very impressive extension onto the nature strip on two streets, the house being on a corner. With water restrictions in full force I could see endless hours of labour stretching ahead in a bleak vista.
The house was right across the road from the railway line and the owners mentioned that they would often miss crucial plot points watching television dramas as trains thundered past. There was also the 3am freight train every night. The hoons who appeared regularly on the road were also mentioned, as was the barking dog next door and the owners had a somewhat animated conversation amongst themselves as to whether somebody had been trying to break into their car for the last five nights, given the lights kept coming on on the car at night – and only at night not during the day.
The woman also had much to say at great length about the previous house sitters who hadn’t returned the saucepans and towels to their right positions in the cupboards and even hinted that I could perhaps wash the windows of the house before their return. She had a massive folder full of typed instructions which she offered to lend me to take away and peruse at my leisure. To add to all of this, the upstairs bathroom only had a spa bath (an unexpected luxury in an otherwise old house) which meant only the downstairs shower – which they used – was in commission. As the house was basically an old Queenslander on stilts with the downstairs section added in later, one had to go outside the house and down the stairs and under the house to get to it. As if this was not enough, the toilet didn’t work properly without coaxing. It would of course have meant getting dressed before and after having a shower, so as not to parade around in my pyjamas for all the street to see.
Then at the end of the interview they started discussing by what method I should pay the bills. This included the water rates – effectively I would be paying for the water which I would use to keep their absolutely massive garden alive, in addition to the electricity and phone line rental accounts. In the final analysis what the owners of this seven-week sit really wanted was a slave.
By the end of the interview – I was exhausted – and that was just the interview! I found myself thinking about plants and water restrictions with dread a few days later, then remembered that I had actually turned this housesit down! Clearly the trauma had been etched into my memory from just that one short encounter with the house!