Oh La la Lincolnshire
Oh La la Lincolnshire
I’ve just said a tearful goodbye to my French au pair, wondering, even as I picked the Kleenex off the garden path, why do we do it? Why do we agree to have someone live with us, so that we become close to them, only to bear the pain of them leaving a few weeks later.. It’s not even as if I wanted an au pair, French or otherwise, it just happened like this…
It was a friend of a friend whose mother…, well you know how it goes! In essence, the exchange was an extra pair of hands in return for some English conversation I think most people would have jumped at the chance without giving the situation a second thought. Just like I did. I’m wiser now and would think more carefully about simple offers and their merits!
The extra pair of hands did, in fact, turn out to be remarkably like my own pair of hands, in so much as they remained in very close proximity to my body. Perhaps it would be fairer to say, that my French au pair very quickly took on the job of being my shadow – just a thinner and prettier version! Maybe I should have considered for a moment, what need I ever had for a spare pair of hands. My job is hardly is hardly limb intensive, the children are of an age that don’t require much in the way of practical help. And my life mantra on house cleaning is that ‘no burglar has ever broken in to steal the dust or the mess’. In fact, the only real robbery I’ve ever experienced actually left the house tidier, as the thief was kind enough to remove some of the clutter, not that I was ever able to establish what he took. Well, not until I found my house cordoned off and the police attempting to detonate a suspiciously discarded briefcase. A briefcase, which even more suspiciously bore my initials!
My side of the au pair bargain was simply the English conversation, remember? How hard could that be? In my wildest dreams, I had never envisaged a French girl with the apparent ability to talk for eight hours solid without drawing breath – in French! Or at best Franglais! Most Europeans put the British to shame with their linguistic dexterity; many speak three or more languages and fluent English is simply acquired through osmosis. Well, my girl must have been particularly thick skinned as her stock response to most things was ‘Perfect!’ This was the one word she had mastered ‘perfectly!’ At least in pronunciation. Her bedroom was ‘perfect’, the food was ‘perfect,’ the house was ‘perfect,’ (I was starting to doubt her understanding of the word at this point), but when the untimely demise of an acquaintance was also ‘perfect,’ it rather put the nail in the coffin of my misplaced confidence, as it were. She was however, well acquainted with greetings, which perhaps explains why she was confused by my standard payoff to a telephone call, mistaking my ‘Cheers bye!’ as ‘Cheese bye!’ Not that she ever queried it! I spent many hours of my life, not in English conversation but in trying to unravel her unusual mutations of English words. Alfie became Umphie; relief was rellyeff, angry was hungry and vice versa!
Ah yes, hungry! Always hungry – amazing for a small person that you’d mark absent if they turned sideways on! Like a shrew, she managed to consume at least half her own body weight at any meal! Which was very exciting in a household of fussy eaters. Even more exciting were the weird and wonderful repasts she would put together from a conspicuous absence of ingredients!
Because, most of the contents of my fridge usually reside sulkily within for a while before waving white flags at me, and marching themselves, in varying states of decay, to one of the conveniently sited bins nearby. Those that lose the ability to be self ambulant, simply dribble their way over the door seal in a gesture of complete defeat.
So her culinary expertise was much appreciated. Particularly around lunchtime, as it’s not really a meal I favour unless someone else is cooking! My mother discovered my guilty secret when she asked my daughter what she’d had for lunch one day, only to get the quizzical response, ‘But Grandma! It’s not a school day!’ My brother also learned the hard way, leaving my house after a ten day visit, and having lost at least as many pounds, saying , ‘Jo, you remember when I said I don’t usually bother with breakfast? Well, I’d never have said that if I’d known you didn’t eat lunch or tea!’
So thank you little French girl, for teaching me that there’s a point to eating lunch, for all the laughs, even if they were at your expense, and for a kitchen floor that would have passed muster at an OCD convention! Until we meet again ‘Fr