Melissa kite

Real life | 27 November 2010

As Stefano the builder positioned his drill, I sat watching him serenely. In a few minutes my home improvements would be complete. One last storage unit would be fixed to the kitchen wall, thus bringing to conclusion three weeks of painting, plastering, carpeting and shelving. It has been an exciting time. Stefano and I are now joined at the hip. We had gone to Ikea to buy the shelving unit together in his battered Skoda estate, which lurched its way eccentrically around the South Circular because Stefano only uses fourth gear, including when trying to pull away from traffic lights. As the car wrenched and choked, I kept encouraging him

Real life | 13 November 2010

For those of us who don’t do it, parenting is a bit of a mystery. A strange, magical, glamorous mystery that we imagine is bedevilled by all sorts of complex and exciting challenges. What a mind-blowing experience it must be to manufacture another human being and steer him into the world, we think. Which is why it was such a disappointment looking after a friend’s teenager for a week. I now realise that parenting involves only two things: persuading a child to eat and persuading a child to put on a coat. That’s it. There is nothing else involved. Which is not to say that it is a simple matter.

Real life | 30 October 2010

Only one thing is worse than noisy neighbours and that is neighbours who are almost noisy. Loud music and uproarious parties are covered by the law. Someone walking about all night in the room over your head is not. I have been unlucky in this arena. The owner of the flat above me moved to Australia a couple of years ago and since then her property has been rented out to a succession of what I suppose the letting agent tells her are young professionals — students in their early 20s who attend the viewing claiming they are two City workers, then cram in as many friends as possible to

Real life | 23 October 2010

On the face of it, giving my house keys to an Albanian builder I bumped into on the street might be deemed a silly thing to do. But to those traditionalists who quibble with such a sally, I would make certain points in defence of giving a strange man called Stefano unlimited access to all areas of my life seconds after meeting him when he was repairing the windowsills of my next-door neighbour. Stefano is special. Stefano is fixing everything. After I admired his handiwork, he offered me ‘good price’ and got to work on my sills and frames. Then he branched out. After taking a quick look at the

Real life | 16 October 2010

‘I’m sorry. There is no one of that name booked into this hotel,’ said the receptionist. No, wait. That won’t do. She didn’t say that at all. And there is no point to this story unless I tell you what she really said, or rather shouted, which was, ‘I am sorry! Zer is no one of zat name booked into zis hotel!’ And in case anyone is thinking this is prejudice against Germans, she wasn’t German. She was from the Baltics. I started to mutter apologetically about the booking perhaps being for the Telegraph. ‘No! Zer is no booking for you here!’ she shouted, as if trying to communicate with

Real life | 9 October 2010

No matter how many scatter cushions they put on the beds, British hotels are just faking it. Thirty-five years after Basil Fawlty, we still can’t do hospitality. Oh, yes, we can do fancy little feedback forms and chocolates on the pillow. But we absolutely cannot do the basics. To visit a British hotel is to embark on a Ray Mears-style expedition into a hostile environment. Granted, it’s all very nicey-nicey down at reception, where the youngsters with gold lapel badges and tight waistcoats have got their degrees in Catering and Customer Care Technology from the University of East Grinstead and know a thing or two about raising your expectations —