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Expat Stereotype - the visiting parents

I asked Petunia if she would like me to bring anything to Keenya for her or the children well in advance and for some weeks there was blissful silence. That is until twenty four hours before we left. Texts that began with; ‘could you just’ and ‘if you wouldn’t mind’ were flooding in almost hourly, just as I was cleaning out the inside of the fridge and spring cleaning ready for the imminent arrival of the house sitter.

I had to send Lionel off to Bath to pick up Monsoon swimming costumes, school shoes and a pair of hi tech trainers that were not available within twenty five miles. Heavens knows what he came back with, I hadn’t time to look and was waiting in for the Boden order. When he got back I rushed off to the chemist to buy sachets of childrens’ Calpol and Neurofen. They only let me have one box muttering something about overdosing. I hope Petunia won’t mind, I think she did say she wanted six of each box in her text.

It reminded me of the time that, on a whim, our daughter wanted a kilo of citric acid to make her own lemon and orange squash. I tried the supermarket first, found they didn’t stock it then headed to the chemist. After scanning shelves in vain then enquiring at the desk, I found that the pharmacist was most suspicious of me and asked a hundred questions as to what I wanted it for. I explained about my daughter living in East Africa and how she couldn’t get things there so he softened a little, but was very firm about that fact that the most I could buy was 200 grams and didn’t I know that citric acid was in high demand by junkies as it was used for cutting cocaine! You can imagine my panic as I backed it in my wheelie bag between layers of knickers before setting out for Heathrow. What would customs think!

The Boden order arrived at the eleventh hour and we somehow sailed through the airport check-in but I did have a hot flush when asked by the desk clerk, ‘did you pack these bags yourself?’ Lionel was hopping from foot to foot as he was certain we were over our weight allowance and would have been furious to have been fined. As I sat down in a relieved heap with a cup of coffee in Cafe Nero I thought we were through the worst, then Lionel unfortunately reminded me that we had a long list of magazines to buy at WHSmith. He told me that it would take some time to locate the required titles; Heat, Hello, Red, Golfer’s World, Landrover Monthly and Marie Claire and ought I not try the airport’s Boots for some more Calpol sachets as well?

We had not anticipated the terribly long walk to our departure gate while struggling with five kilos of magazines; however we somehow miraculously made it without getting a hernia.

It was wonderful to arrive, though I realised with dismay that I had forgotten to bring anything for the house helps and I was absolutely meaning to buy them something. They must have been overlooked somewhere between the Boden order and the school shoes. We handed over the requested goods to Petunia and received barely a thank you. The whole thing was overshadowed by Cressida who was making a terrible fuss about the school shoes, insisting that she would not be seen dead wearing them.

My son in law sends the children in to our room very early by way of some kind of wonderful wakeup call but in fact it is generally 3am our time. On the first day we staggered out of the guest wing in time for a raucous breakfast and for the past few days the house seems to have been full of Petunia’s friends and endless numbers of other people’s children. Lionel told Petunia that he had one of his heads and has been devouring thrillers in bed for over twenty four hours. It’s alright for some.

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