Thursday, 29 March 2007

The au pair

We have a good idea. Now that we've moved all the bedrooms round in a complicated manner so that we are living across two separate flats on two different floors of our old Victorian house, we have a large room spare. For about a month it's been a playroom for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Their aeroplanes and castle are there, along with their dressing up clothes, and an old mattress for trampolining. But it would make a splendid room for an au pair during August. I can imagine it: there'd be space for a bed and study table and the en suite bathroom would help create a private space away from us all when we all become too much and au pair becomes home sick.

This isn't exactly a new idea. For the last few months Dig's been cruising about au pair websites and has even subscribed to a few. So now we have up our family profile and au pairs who may be interested send us links to their CVs. The theory is, we eye them up, make a judgement, interview and employ.

It sounds simple, huh?

The first judgement we made some time ago was that a good proportion of potential au pairs may be spammers in disguise, throwing out links to their CVs regardless of a family's profile. For example, in our profile we've written that an au pair would have to cope around triplets; please bring French, Spanish or Italian into the house; we'd prefer vegetarian, non-religious, and we don't want smokers. Because of visa requirements and our need to interview before appointment, we state we can take someone only from within Europe, and preferably within reach of an Easy jet flight. If it all goes horribly wrong they can be back home to mum within the day.

In the first batch of responses we get a half dozen links from au pairs in Mexico, three from the Philippines, a deluge from Eastern Europe, a scattering from Thailand and a ladyboy from Korea with a phobia about babies. When we get the ladyboy link I reckon someone's having a laugh. When I click through, I start to revise my opinion on that.

The second judgement we make is that a large proportion of potential au pairs do not see themselves as others do. We click through to Marlene in France who claims she's a non-smoker. There's her photograph, with a cigarette dangling from her fingertips. We click through to Angelina in Italy who claims she's a vegetarian in Section A and by Section B lists in her recent interests a meat cookery course.

Our third judgement, sadly, is that many of those who say they're interested in working with our family are simply unemployable by us. There's Beth, presently in the UK, who says she likes the sound of triplets and is an Evangelical Christian who believes it is her mission to bring all to Christ. I'm sorry? Are we likely to employ you, Beth?

Of course if we're going for unsuitable candidates we might choose Sylvia who says she's a practising nudist but for us not to worry because it doesn't get in the way of her doing the vacuuming. Or Elsie, who believes in discipline. Then there's 30-year Evie from Latvia who provides a photograph of herself wearing a Santa hat and writes 'I am in the police'. Alexia seems promising but says she'll only come over if we let her boyfriend stay. Or Clara, who wants a full salary with two zeroes at the end of each week, plus use of the family car at weekends and four days off a week to go to the gym. We could choose Stephan, of course, who says he wants to work in a family where there are no children. Or perhaps Augusta would get on well here. She says she's a perfectionist and a mess in the house gives her panic attacks.

But we've perservered. And today we're in negotiations with Sasha, who might come to see us for a day when her university exams are over. Sasha is a German native speaker who works 'in a centre where blind people help educate a dog'. So we need help with German, and she needs help with English. She may come over in April. If she does, I'll let you know. And you never know. She could be normal.

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