Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Guest for breakfast

It would be difficult to think, offhand, of a simple explanation of why a young woman, a total stranger, wearing only a nightdress, rang our doorbell at 7.45 in the morning.

But the answer was simple indeed: her name is Esther, she comes to England for an English course, checks in with her host family (of which, husband and children away on holiday at Disneyland, wife goes to work at 7am), gets up the next morning, strolls outside to see what the weather is like and the door swings shut, locked. No key, so she runs next door to see if anyone can help.

People next door (us) don't know where (host) wife works, nor do language school, so (my) wife lends her some clothes, I deliver her to the language school for her first day's study and all ends happily.

It made rather a jolly start to the day for us, but such an experience would have reduced many a young person to a gibbering panic. Fortunately, Esther is Swiss, a people renowned, like Yorkshire folk, for their phlegm. Of course she was concerned and embarrassed, but by no means panic-stricken.

I told her later that when she goes back to Switzerland she can proudly tell her family and friends that on her first day in England she has improved the British perception of the her compatriots beyond measure. We have tended to think of the Swiss as efficient, well-organised people who never make foolish mistakes, admirable but not especially lovable. Since Esther's arrival, however, we have realised that they are just like us, and feel much warmer towards them.

But Esther at twenty-three has good English, impeccable French and German, and her studies in written and spoken Arabic are well advanced as she is planning to go and teach in an Arab country. Not at all like us, really.

1 comment:

PerfectlyVocal said...

I broke out in a cold sweat reading this tale. I too was locked out of my house when 2 of my daughters were very little, stranded in my nightie on the front lawn. My neighbour was less hospitable and kept me on the doorstep while he found a hammer, and then he proceeded to break the glass in my back door, reach in, unlock it and left me there with two screaming toddlers and a pile of glass. If only I had been Swiss....