How long is too long? This is the question that troubles the conscientious guest.
Julian Assange, the notably unconscientious founder of WikiLeaks, invited himself to stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge on June 19. It is now exactly a fortnight later, yet he shows no signs of moving.
He is, by all accounts, an awkward sort of guest. In his book about Assange, his former second-in-command, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, lists many of his irritating characteristics, any of which might drive even the most pliable host up the wall.Julian Assange: Just how long does he plan to sleep in the Ecuadorian Embassy?
Here are Julian Assange’s ten most annoying habits, with additional comments from Domscheit-Berg:
1. He doesn’t say ‘hello’, he says ‘hoi’.
2. He also likes to say: ‘How goes?’
3. He enjoys sliding down bannisters.
4. He prefers to eat with his hands. ‘Julian often behaved as though he had been raised by wolves rather than by other human beings.’
5. He then wipes his fingers on his trousers. ‘I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life.’
6. He likes to take more than his fair share of everything. ‘If there were four slices of Spam, he would eat three and leave one for me.’
7. He is a skinflint. He used to ask to borrow money so his whereabouts couldn’t be traced via a cash-machine transaction, but he carried on using this excuse even after appearing at televised press conferences.More from Craig Brown... Who trashed Mrs T's shoes? See below... 05/06/13 Why the king of the corgis bit the dust: Eight things you didn't know about the Queen's coronation 03/06/13 Shakespeare? He's only in it for the money 22/05/13 CRAIG BROWN: The perils of beheading a giant prawn 20/05/13 I'll level with you: the British shelf is the best 15/05/13 You'll just love Geoffrey! He's a real character 13/05/13 What a handy place to rest a teacup, Prezza! 08/05/13 Come dine with you? Actually, I'd rather not 06/05/13 So that's why Sunny Jim was so perky! 01/05/13 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
8. He is an eccentric dresser, wearing two pairs of trousers, ‘though I’ve never understood why’.
9. He likes having his bags carried for him.
10. His standards of personal hygiene are, to say the least, erratic. He is also a fierce opponent of fresh air. ‘A coffin that had been reopened after a decade would have smelled better than our room.’
By the look of it, the Ecuadorian Embassy is not very spacious. Assange is said to be sleeping on an inflatable mattress, which suggests that he is camping out in a room intended for some other purpose, such as someone’s office.
One can well imagine the morning ritual of a poor junior Ecuadorian diplomat having to knock every morning at his own office door, saying: ‘Can I come in? Are you decent?’ Then having to wait while, in the fugged-up room, Assange puts on all his layers of clothing and deflates his mattress.
Judging by his actions up to now, Assange is untroubled by the fear of overstaying his welcome.
It’s always hard to judge these things — personally, I am always arriving too early and leaving too late - so perhaps it would be most tactful to point him to Barbara Cartland’s Book Of Etiquette, published in 1972.Dame Barbara Cartland: If only the legendary etiquette expert were here to pass on her wisdom
‘Nothing is worse than guests who just don’t know when their company begins to pall!’ advises Dame Barbara, adding: ‘I regret to say that in my house if people over-stay, my husband gets restless and starts emptying the ashtrays into the fire.’
But by now the Ecuadorian ambassador will have given up hinting (‘I simply don’t know how we’ll manage without you’). He will probably have moved on to hurling every embassy ashtray into the fire.
Lady Elizabeth Anson, in her Party Planners Book, offers this advice to anyone seeking to get rid of an unwanted guest: ‘Some people are deadly stayers-on, so if you are giving the party, you may be forced to stop serving the food and drink and fetch their coats.
‘At the furthest extreme, if you go to bed yourself, they must take the hint!’
But would this tactic cut any ice with Assange? My guess is not. As the ambassador makes a show of climbing the stairs in his pyjamas saying: ‘Time for bed,’ Assange will simply reply: ‘Don’t worry about me, mate - I brought my own inflatable mattress!’
Assange is clearly one of those people who are immune to hints. In My Dinner Party Book, a third etiquette expert, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, argued against inviting them at all. ‘Rule One - no bores,’ she wrote, with characteristic severity.
‘The men must all be interesting and the women must be intelligent, witty and/or beautiful. She may be your best friend, but if she’s plain and dull, too bad - she does not come.’
The best advice for getting rid of unwanted guests comes from that great neglected master, J. P. Donleavy.
In his book The Unexpurgated Code, Donleavy suggests making the overstaying guest undertake increasingly more onerous household chores, starting with day one, ‘removing junk from attics’; day two, ‘wood chopping’; day five, ‘roofing work’, all the way through to day 14, ‘sewer cleaning’.
Coincidentally, today is day 14 of Assange’s stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Send for the rubber gloves!