Scott Feschuk’s advice to deal with unwanted cottage guests

So glad you’ll come. Bring bat traps!


Of all the pests that confront the owners of cottages and cabins in Canada, none is more persistent than the aspiring guest. Some drop subtle hints that they’d like an invitation. Others are more direct in seeking to interrupt lakeside serenity. As a public service, Maclean’s provides this note of response for use by cottage and cabin owners across our country:

Greetings! Thanks for your email. We would of course love to host your family at the lake. Most of our guests come to visit for a weekend, but how delightful to learn that you’re free for “all of next week, and maybe even longer.” Just like last year!

A few important notes as you prepare to join us:

Don’t worry about bringing bug spray! The good news is that the mosquitoes haven’t been too bad this summer. Or maybe we just haven’t been paying them much attention. I guess that’s the one upside of all the snakes.

There is, of course, no air conditioning up here at the lake. Not to worry—the nighttime breeze is lovely. If you set your mind to it, you’ll hardly notice the preparations for next week’s local manure festival. Can’t wait for you to help us with the sculpture we plan to enter!

The sunrises have been particularly beautiful this summer, as you’ll soon discover for yourselves. The guest room is ideally positioned to receive direct sunlight at 5:40 a.m. every morning! (There used to be curtains hanging in there, but we’ve been using them to catch all the bats that have gotten inside. Well, try to catch the bats. We’ll get ’em yet!)

You asked whether you should bring along your dog. By all means! Our pups Bentley and Herman love it up here. At first they were agitated and barking loudly all the time because they could hear the coyotes just over the hill. But we haven’t heard a peep out of either of the dogs since last night! Or seen them, come to think of it.

By the way, you should know in advance that we’ve been having some plumbing “issues” this summer, so the inside toilet is currently out of commission. Instead, we’ve built a makeshift outhouse that faces the marina and the public beach. And we should have a door on it by the time the leaves turn colour! (I have to tell you: the outhouse is such a peaceful place, so long as you don’t nudge the wasp nest.)

It’s great that you’ll be visiting again because we have some catching up to do! Remember our eccentric neighbour, Old Mr. Hudson? You’ll be happy to hear he hasn’t changed a bit. The other day, he wandered over and told a whopper of a story about bumping into a 12-foot eel in the lake during his morning swim. We’ve been having a good laugh over his tall tale! I mean, he insists the eel really exists, but come on—it could have been any number of things in the water that chewed off his hand.

Listen to me, I’m focusing on the negative when there’s so much to be grateful for! For instance, the lake is so welcoming and refreshing at this time of year. Fair warning, though: you’ve heard of swimmer’s itch? It’s a mild skin reaction triggered by microscopic parasites in the water, and doctors agree that it’s nothing serious. Which is why we all wish that’s what we’d contracted. Alas, none of us can pronounce the medical term for the angry, pulsating rash we actually do have—at least not with all these boils around our mouths. I’m losing so much weight and eyesight!

Can I be candid with you? We are so glad that you guys are keen to come visit us again this summer. It’s such a relief to discover that not everyone believes the rumours. I, for one, believe the gossip has gotten out of hand. As we told the authorities when they came to investigate the chanting coming from the woods out back: that could be anyone’s inverted pentagram!

To sum up, we can’t wait for you to be our guests at the lake. Can we ask a small favour in return? On the drive, could we trouble you to stop and pick up a bear trap, a dozen tranquilizer darts and three vials of the blood of the innocent? No reason.

See you soon!