Housesitting with Bente (3)


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.

Time is a funny thing. One moment the hands of the clock seem to stand still; the next they go too fast. And thus I am suddenly ten days down the line. It is my last morning in the house that I am sitting, and in exactly 24 hours I am back on the train to the Netherlands.

Filling my hours was a lot easier than I thought. I sought out adventure every day with a walk in the surrounding area. Sometimes it was a trail of six kilometres, but often it was a route of fifteen or more. I trudged through pastures, stepped (on average) in cow poo three times a day and had a lot of staring matches with sheep.

I was almost continuously lost and sometimes cursed everything and everyone because the directions (not me, of course) were wrong. And more often than I wanted to, I had to make difficult choices that nobody could help me with: Should I go through that pasture where about 30 cows are standing smack-bang in my path, or just slide under the electric fence, for example (I chose the latter option and survived, by some miracle). It was wonderful to be outdoors for so long, regardless of the weather, and to rely on my own instincts. I spent the rest of the time in the house. I wrote a bit, read a few pages from time to time and, in the name of culture you’ll understand, watched all the movies starring Hugh Grant in record time.


I was not bored at all, just a bit lonely now and then. I missed being able to share the experiences with someone. To sit in a café together, watching people (or in this case cows) and chatting the hours away. And although I occasionally talked to the cats (you have to, you see), it was not the same as having someone around you.

Yet at the same time that was exactly what I liked so much about house-sitting. That you live like a local and not like a tourist. And that you are never alone, because everyone keeps an eye on things. The neighbors came by for an occasional chat, I talked with some of the villagers, and one of the house owners’ friends even took me to the cinema in a town not far from the village.

I often worried about how I would fill my time. Whether I would become lonely and what I would do at such a time, and if everything would go well. Turns out—and I hear my dad’s voice in my head at this point—that all those worries were not necessary. “Things will run their course,” he says often. And that’s exactly what happened here.