Housesitting with Bente (2)


Spending time in a different city or country, living in a different home—for free: housesitting sounds like a lot of fun. But what is it really like? And what is it like when you do it completely on your own? Flow’s Bente finds out for herself when she house-sits in England.

It is nine o’clock in the morning, the day after I was warmly welcomed by the owners of the house I’m about to look after while they go away. Shoes were left on the mat outside, and I got a hug, a pair of pink slippers and a cup of tea, which was sitting there waiting for me on the kitchen table. The question of whether I would feel at home didn’t cross my mind from the moment they opened the front door.

But now I am on my own. The English couple are on their way to the airport and the cats are hunting for mice at the farm across the road. Where yesterday the sound of our voices filled the room, today the only thing I hear is the ticking of the clock on the wall. I take a look at it: Five past nine.

For days I have fantasized about this moment, when my oceans of time would start. But now that the time has come, I don’t even know how I’m going to fill the first hour. It scares me. Can I be alone for so long in a house that is not mine? And what on Earth am I going to do with ten empty days in a village where I don’t know a soul? I decide to start small, and take my coat for a walk to the local grocery store.

That walk grows into a long hike to the nearby castle and back. I get lost three times, step in cow shit six times and am threatened by an angry sheep who is standing in my way. But wow, it feels good to be outside for so long without encountering a car or human. Once I’m back at home I work a bit, I cuddle the cats and I read a book in bed. And before I know it, it’s morning; the clock says 9 a.m. and my first day is over.

I spend the next day outdoors a great deal too. I walk twenty kilometers in the hills and get harassed by sheep again, I take a bath to warm myself up and I read a book on the porch. In between, I give the cats attention, I put the garbage outside and I take care of the plants. I like my new rhythm, and while the clock is firmly ticking, I gradually get into the swing of things in the English countryside.