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Tuesday, 16 March 2010


So a friend's son was shipped off to England on one of these excursions provided by agencies and academies where they get to stay with a family and practice their English and have classes in the morning and then on day trips around London. All sounds lovely and I was feeling a bit envious when I heard about all the outings to The Britsh Museum and jaunts up the Thames in boats. The whole package doesn't come cheap and is sold on the idea that you get to stay with a family and everything is straight out of a novel or at any rate Fawlty Towers. There are always stories of students not having a good time and it usually involves the food and the common complaint that The Brits eat too much butter or that everything is cooked with. Nothing is perfect of course and it reminds me of my desperate school trip to Dieppe and my pathetic attempts to ask the gendarmerie where the church was. It is funny what you remember. One of the policemen held a fascination for me as he had massive ears. I can still see his face. I also remember the owners of the concentration camp where we stayed getting us to sing a song that went on about a Mr Moon who was up too soon and the sun was still in the sky. I realise now that all the teachers were pissed the night before and were refusing to come down, literally, from their hangovers and were still in bed. The owner of the camp was like an English Major and the whole sojourn wasn't unlike an episode from the above mentioned Towers.

Well, if I thought this was bad enough it wasn't anything like the stay in London that said friend's son had to endure. It all seemed OK before he left with brief details that he would be stying ( that should read staying but perhaps best left as ) with a Mr and Mrs Hemmings of Brockley. What he didn't realise was that he would be staying with one half of the Hemmings family, the Mrs and that the Mr would pop up four days into the trip. That was before he met their five kids and three cousins and the aunt that decided to stay one night and the girlfriend of Mr Hemmings who stayed with him half way through the stay and this isn't even mentioning the three French students that turned up on day three and on day four the three Chinese students. The son told us that each day he kept wondering who would turn up next. The most was about twenty five folk all battling to get into the bathroom. The night they arrived Mrs Hemmings said they couldn't possibly want anything to eat so she gave them an ice-cream to keep them going till the next day when they got peanut butter and tuna sarnies. Just to add to the flavour the 'uncle' walked around the house in his underpants. Also, Brockley seems to have been a metaphor for Lewisham, or Sarajevo in the Springtime as Henderson once described it. Welcome to Britain. I felt like saying 'now do you understand why I left?'

To be continued at some later date................

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