We have a French Exchange staying with us. She hasn't been to England before so she's a bit nervous and for some reason I think she finds us... unusual.
To tell the truth, I reckon I might have gotten off on the wrong foot right at the start, on Thursday evening, when I arrived home from work. I'd cycled home, it was late and I was very tired but, yes, I should have remembered the French Exchange would be there and, no, I shouldn't have come suddenly bursting in, crossly, through the french-windows, muddy-lycra-legged, in a hi-viz armpit-ventilated waistcoat and an oily face.
After she had calmed down, the French Exchange went straight to bed. Obviously she was tired after a long journey. We gave her 10 minutes to settle down and then my children remembered all the things that they had left in her room that they absolutely had to retrieve before the morning. What kind of things? Things that required my presence in her bedroom to shift the furniture to get at (don't ask). After a few minutes of whispered but still heated argument outside the French Exchange's bedroom door, the children banged and a delegation was sent in. She was very nice about it, considering.
She does have a name, of course, - in fact I'm pretty sure she told us what it was when she arrived - but we don't use it: when she's not listening we simply refer to her as "The French Exchange".
When she is listening we still call her "The French Exchange" but more rapidly (She doesn't understand rapid English, which is unfortunate because in our family that's the sort of English we speak) When we want to attract her attention we call her "Oi, tu".
She in turn doesn't call us anything at all; because she doesn't speak. I don't mean she doesn't speak English. I mean she doesn't speak: you see: she's fifteen. When she wants to attract our attention she uses her butter-knife like a spoon. Or pours the milk in afterwards. Or eats the cakes before the scones (she was exhibiting French sang-froid on Saturday, so we took her to afternoon tea at the Waldorf to humiliate her).
After the Waldorf we took her to St Paul's: ostensibly this was to climb the dome, experiment with the whispering gallery ("Oi! Tu!") and run out breathless on to the hair-raising viewing platform to point out where where we'd just walked "Et le bas: Le Pont de le Tour". Of course the real reason was to visit the tombs of the Duke of Wellington, vanquisher of the French in 1815, Lord Nelson, vanquisher of the French in 1805 and the memorial to Winston Churchill, rescuer of the French in 1944. The French Exchange was suitably impressed, I could tell. At one point she even took off her ipod.
She's with us for another two days. I reckon the entente-cordiale will just about last.