Saturday, 28 April 2007


Sasha has arrived. Sasha is aged 19, German, and very quiet. In fact she is so quiet that I have to lean towards her to hear what she is saying. Consequently she leans away from me and I lean towards her a bit further. Since this is not a good state of affairs and I suspect neither of us is comfortable with this posture, I have told her that I am a bit deaf and asked her to shout.

It would be rather interesting to have a shouty German teenager in the house, but even Sasha's shout is quiet, so now we have a quietly shouting German teenager in the house. Sasha also waits to be told to do anything, like sit down, or eat something, or put down luggage. So I am constantly saying 'Sasha, put your luggage down. Sasha, drink a glass of fruit juice. Sasha, take a bread roll. Sasha, chew the bread roll'. OK, not that last one, but I'm not counting it out just yet. There are two more days before she goes home.

I am sure she cannot be like this back in Heidelberg. I am sure at home she charges about the house, blundering into walls drunk at 2am, slamming the bathroom door shut, shouting 'I didn't ask to be born!' as she crashes upstairs, screaming 'You fat cow!' to her 15-year old sister and generally behaving very obnoxiously (all in German, obviously). I hope she is badly behaved in Heidelberg, because bad behaviour is what I'm anticipating will be the teenage interaction between Grit, Dig, Squirrel, Shark and Tiger, and if it's not, I'm going to think our offspring are not normal.

But Sasha is not only very quiet and very well behaved. Sasha does not even seem to need to use the toilet. I keep sending Squirrel to show Sasha various toilets around the house, because after seven hours I become worried that Sasha is either desparate for a wee, too polite to ask where the toilet is, or that Sasha is another-dimensional entity like one of David Icke's shape-shifting reptilians who perhaps still do not need to use the toilet after two glasses of mixed fruit juice and three cups of green tea.

All of this quiet demeanour and good behaviour has had a strange effect on Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. They've all been on best-presentation-mode all day long, full of 'pleases' and 'thank yous', and they have all said they would like to learn German, even though we do not know anything at all, except that I have asked Sasha to teach me the German for, 'Where is the bathplug?' and 'I have had a nose-full of this'.

By evening, we have all smiled so much our facial muscles hurt and we have had a non-shouty day full of niceness. So I am quite relieved that Sasha has decided to retire. I have had to say 'Sasha, would you like to go to bed now?' because I have been worried that unless I ask she might sit up all night on the sofa.

And this is all because we have invited Sasha over to see if she can cope with being in a house of screaming triplets enough to come back and be an au pair here in August when she is on her college holiday. Well, the Grit and Dig family is just not representative today. We will have to hope that tomorrow Squirrel wakes up in a bad mood and that Shark accuses Tiger of stealing her tiara. And then we'll throw squabbling triplets at Sasha while me and Dig leave the room to see if she can cope. As I close the door behind us, I could ask, 'Sasha, can you cope?' and that would probably help her decide about how she could spend her August vacation.

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