Column: Janey Lee Grace on the language of love
PUBLISHED: 14:07 24 July 2010 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 February 2013
Janey overcomes some language barriers, and the nutritionist gets her words misunderstood
I AM just back from Luton airport having waved goodbye to our summer au pair. She's going back to the Czech Republic to study psychology (probably got enough material for one term living with our barking mad lot!) and I'm going back to a chaotic house that will now be messier without her help and certainly not as much fun without her making various scary monsters to dangle down on a string from her window to hang outside the kid's bedroom window one floor below. She was a delightful, happy 19-year-old, who couldn't speak much English, but it's amazing just how well you can communicate with someone using a few basic words, looks, and much waving about of arms.
Care and kindness
I was very worried when we had our first au pair, I'd heard all kinds of scare-mongering stories from friends but we were incredibly fortunate and our Romanian au pair settled in immediately. I was worried about her somewhat limited knowledge of our lovely language, but it seems that the language of 'care and kindness' is universal. Our third child was only two and was a terrible sleeper, it took forever to coax him to go to bed and stay there and of course with me being into natural parenting I wasn't about to leave him to cry. The au pair asked if she could have a try and with delight we handed the job over. The first night she managed it in 20 minutes and we all decided it was just fluke, but when after three days he was still off into the land of nod so quickly we thought we'd better discover her secret.
She smiled conspiratorially and said, 'I give him brown beer....I show you,' and she disappeared off the get the evidence. I tried not to panic, and as visions of my alcoholic baby flashed through my mind she appeared at the door and said, 'Look - it always work to send him to sleep.' She held up a large brown... bear. His favourite huge teddy.
A sprouting problem
On that note of complete misunderstanding of words, my friend's son has just started university. After a summer of late nights he was looking and feeling worse the wear with acne and various symptoms that were not ideal for starting a new phase of his life. His mum offered to pay for a visit to a holistic nutritionist and she gave him a few suggestions for adapting his diet and taking certain vitamins and supplements.
His mum and dad went off for a few days and returned to find the fridge chock full of Brussels sprouts - 'the nutritionist said sprouts were really good to build my immunity,' he said. For the next couple of days they all avoided the lavatory after he'd been anywhere near it and mused over the benefits of our undermined humble Brussels sprout until it suddenly dawned on his mum that the nutritionist had not in fact intended her son to consume copious amounts of Brussels sprouts, but sprouts as in sprouted seeds - a very different foodstuff altogether. Oh dear, now there's a trip back to the nutritionist to sort out the problem of flatulence in addition to the acne.
Meanwhile I'm back on the internet searching for au pair help. Anyone any suggestions? - English not essential!