We have a beautiful 1950s two-bedroom cottage that we lovingly restored three years ago.
We took up layers of carpet and lino, discovering newspapers from 1952 and cypress floorboards in perfect condition beneath.
We rebuilt the bathroom and laundry but retained the outdoor dunny. We installed a new kitchen and cut through a wall so the toiling cooks could enjoy the water views.
During the months of work we fell in love with our little cottage and dreamed of one day living there. It had a special feel, a place of great tranquility and peace.
It had obviously been a home filled with love and laughter in the past and these happy emotions still resonated within its walls.
Slowly we introduced our cottage to our guests: honeymooners, couples from around the world, country families, artists seeking inspiration.
Australian author Frank Moorhouse wrote the final part of his trilogy Cold Light perched at the lounge room window overlooking the sea and has been a perennial visitor.
We were protective of our cottage and carefully vetted each potential customer.
But recently one family snuck beneath our radar. They were supposed to be a couple with two teenage children, failing to include the younger child and pet.
They were secretive, keeping the curtains and doors closed, but as the week progressed we became aware of some strange comings and goings and unruly behaviour.
Finally they left and tentatively we opened the front door. It was a scene of destruction. There were broken lamps and glassware, the floorboards sported deep scratches and in places were slick with a sticky red substance, the woven rug was impregnated with the same goo, the white towels were grey, the bed linen stained, there was chewing gum stuck to the bedhead, the windows and sills were smeared.
They had washed the dishes using soap, the frying pan was a burnt hull, the saucepans caked in dried food, the oven trays wore a layer of fat.
It took four of us five hours to clean the filth, but the smell of fat lingered and it took days of airing and several cans of Glen 20 to eliminate.
We tried ringing this despicable family to vent our anger but their phones were turned off. We tried taking a cleaning fee but the account was empty.
We licked our wounds and comforted ourselves with the fact there was no permanent damage.
But the lack of respect for someone else’s property cuts deeply. The abuse that had been meted out on such a beautiful little cottage was inconceivable.
Do these people treat their own property this way? Do they tolerate that level of filth in their own home?
I suspect not. But in their minds it was acceptable in a rental property – they had paid the money and could close the door and walk away.
Similarly, it astounds me when I see what people leave behind after a day of picnicking. They are a minority but the garbage left behind is extraordinary.
A few weeks ago I found a soiled nappy in the gutter. Someone had obviously changed their child, dumped the dirty nappy and driven off.
I guess that makes them guttersnipes. Our cottage abusers were certainly of that ilk – the lowest of the low.