Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Canteen.

I’ve been promoted. The travel company, through which we had hosted the international students at the beginning of the summer, were so impressed with my sterling efforts at race relations that they have sent me another girl. Only this time it is not for a three weeks, hell no, I have been entrusted with the moral and physical welfare of an exquisite Norwegian teenager for a whole year.
Hubby was kept in the dark for a while, well, there’s no point in worrying his pretty little head for nothing and I thought the best policy would be to frighten him into thinking the very worst, so that when it became clear what was actually happening, he would be relieved and immediately relenting. And so, over breakfast one rare sunny morning, when Hubby was at his happiest with a cafetiere of coffee, the fantasy property pages of his newspaper spread out before him and his favourite music playing, I hesitatingly started the following conversation:
“Isn’t it lovely how this house is always full of young people?”
“Hmm”, he grunted in reply, not looking up. I tried again.
“I love it. Last week what with sleepover buddies, a girlfriend and various band-mates I counted thirteen youngsters in this house, that’s not including the surprise arrival of the Red-Head’s God-father and daughter and his friend and her two children. It must keep us young.”
“Speak for yourself”, he mumbled. This was not going according to plan. I tried harder.
“But darling, some people have such dull lives don’t they? You can’t call ours dull, can you? I mean the kitchen is like a canteen. I literally seem to ladle out food from a bottomless cauldron”, I paused, Hubby was at least looking at me now, if only sceptically, “but I do love looking around my dining table and finding that even the spare chairs have been utilised and all these kids are chatting away and passing bread and sharing food”.
“You feeling alright Alice? You are not your usual, moody cow self”. I chose to ignore that remark.
“I just love having children and young people around that’s all and I mean, well, what’s another mouth to feed?” That clinched it, Hubby, mid-pour of coffee, missed his mug completely and dark, hot liquid dripped off his paper and onto his lap.
“Jeeze, ow, ouch”, he yelped, hopping around and holding his soaking, dressing gown safely away from the family jewels, “What are you getting at Alice? What the hell are you trying to tell me?”
“Well, recently I’ve felt...”, but he didn’t even give me the chance to carry on.
“I knew it”, he blew, “I bloody knew it. You’ve felt sick! You’ve lost three stone in only a few weeks and the only time I’ve known you do that before is when you were pregnant. Have you been sick in secret? Oh dear God, oh no”. His slumped into a dining chair and plonked his head on the table.
“For heaven’s sake”, I said and was about to add an important fact that he seemed to have overlooked when suddenly he remembered and he sprang up from the chair, fury blazing from his eyes.
“But I’ve had a vasectomy! My God! I don’t believe it! How could you? How could you?”, he demanded. I put my hand on his shoulder and very soothingly said,
“My darling, I am not in the slightest bit pregnant and I have most certainly not been carrying on with anyone else. Now, had Johnny Depp wanted me for his film and we’d met up over a cup of coffee at his trailer then I might have found it nay on impossible to refuse but as I’m only on his shortlist, then my chances are slim and for the time being you needn’t worry...”.
“Get to the point”, Hubby growled.
“I just felt, that, as the international student experience was, by and large such a positive experience and, as we have the time and space, we could host another one”. My plan had worked and his relief was palpable.
“Phew, is that all?”, he fell back onto his chair, “Sure, why what’s the arrangement?” And so I told him that the company had been in touch and that they wanted us to host for a full year.
As anything was better than the horror he’d previously imagined, he smiled and agreed, “Sounds like a good idea. So they go to school here do they?”
“Yes, the programme is called the High School year and I’ve arranged for her to study her AS levels locally”. There was a pause.
“She? Do you know who’s coming then or, should I say, when is she coming?” It was my turn to look uncomfortable.
“Er, Sunday”. The coffee almost went flying again, but Hubby succeeded in keeping it together.
“You mean tomorrow?” he asked. I nodded.
Pia has been with us almost a week and is without doubt everything one would expect a Scandinavian to be, beautiful, blonde and encouragingly, like every other teenager I’ve encountered i.e messy, emotional and with a mobile phone permanently glued to her ear. I must admit though that I have grave reservations regarding the travel company who facilitated this experience, who have amongst other gems of wisdom, advised me and the other host families that we must not provide lunch, that our students must not make contact with their parents for three months and that at Christmas, we are only expected to provide a cheap, token gift. My gut feeling, sadly, having met the other host families, is that there is more than one who would have no qualms in allowing a nervous, homesick sixteen year old watch as they enjoyed a round a sarnies, let alone a Sunday roast and who quite candidly were only in it for the money, as one nudged me conspiratorially, before rubbing his fingers together and saying, “It’s a holiday innit?”

4 comments:

Eloise said...

Oh, my goodness - poor hubby! You probably could have gotten him to agree to anything after that scare!

What a wonderful experience for your family and for Pia. I think the agency's rules sound a little harsh, though. Hopefully they have some research or experience to bear them out and that they're not just arbitrary.

Keep us posted on how things are going.

Mary Alice said...

Oh my, this should make for some goood stories this year! Good for you. I couldn't take on more than my own.

kcinnova said...

Alice, you are wonderful! Someday this will make your hubby laugh...
I LOVE how you told him!
A houseful of young people is definitely good for the blogging. :)

anyscribbles said...

Wow, you really are brave taking on Pia for whole year! It is lovely having lots of kids around though, I miss them now that my elder Teen is in New Zealand, though his friends still pop in for tea and a chat which is lovely.
I went to Norway a couple of years ago, I loved it. I went on the Hurtigruten cruise up the coast. Fantastic trip. What area is Pia from?
Hubby must be awfully relieved! Scribble.