We have a teenage
French girl staying with us. My daughter went off to France last term, and this is the exchange visit.
I want her to like the UK. I don't want her to go back thinking British people are sad, weird tea-drinkers who eat bad food and slosh about in perpetual rain.
"Just chill, Mum," says my daughter.
But I don't. I chuck one of my sons out of his room
and thoroughly disinfect it. I make up the bed with a set of sheets without rips or biro marks.
I buy in traditional British food like Cheddar cheese. I say, brightly, "We could take her out for a curry one night."
"Stop panicking, Mum," says my daughter.
The day the French girl arrives, there is brilliant sunshine. London sparkles. I beam, proudly.
The next day, and for the rest of the week, it pours with rain. It rains so much that the drains block and the roads turn into rivers. It rains so much that the windscreen wipers can't cope, and I end up staring open-mouthed at a wall of water.
"It hasn't rained like this for months," I say. "In fact, we're in the middle of a hosepipe ban."
I'm not sure she believes me.
The second problem is that she doesn't eat cheese. (I thought all French people liked cheese. I hastily revise the menus and hide the Cheddar.) And she hates curry.
The third problem is that it isn't until she arrives that I realise how much tea we drink. It's what we do. Any excuse, we put the kettle on. I keep turning to her, saying, "Cup of tea?" and she looks back, mystified.
She's going home tomorrow. I have a sinking feeling I know what she's going to remember about the UK: continual rain, bad meals and constant cups of tea.
Have you hosted an exchange student?
Did you make a good impression?
This five-year diary, £16.99, from <a href="http://www.collinsdebden.co.uk/" target="_blank">Collins </a>can be securely locked to keep secrets from prying eyes. Very important as a record of all that she felt in her teenage years before she became rich and famous… In black or pink, with a day to a page layout, edging in gold or silver, and a ribbon marker.</p>
Still cool, still sleek, still highly desirable, the iPod Shuffle, £40, from <a href="http://www.apple.com/uk/" target="_blank">Apple</a> allows her to take hundreds of songs with her wherever she goes. There’s now a new VoiceOver button that speaks the song title, playlist or artist, and if you buy from the Apple store, you can have the iPod engraved for free. Available in silver, blue, green, orange and pink.</p>
Barry M is a British fashion cosmetics company with a reputation for being both affordable and fashionable. <a href="http://www.barrym.com/" target="_blank">Barry M’s</a> Instant Nail Effects, £3.99 each come in seven different colours are applied over a base coat, and produce a unique crackled effect. Black hit the market a year ago: Purple Rain and Gold Glitter are just out.</p>
Black and grey stripes down one leg, and mixed-up red, grey and black stripes down the other should be crazy enough for any fashion-conscious teen. 100 denier, matt finish, and warm enough to keep her wearing her short skirts even when the weather’s cold, these Miss Oroblu Crazy Tights are £18.95, from <a href="http://www.mytights.com/us/" target="_blank">Mytights.com. </a></p>
Really pretty and surprisingly long-lasting (up to six months), Feather Hair Extensions. £14.99, from <a href="http://www.additionallengths.co.uk/hair-extensions-c1/feather-hair-extensions-c13" target="_blank">Additionallengths.co.uk</a> are clipped into your hair using the hair threader supplied (TOWIE star Sam Faiers shows how to do this on <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxBRLSBubIg" target="_blank">YouTube</a>. They’re real feathers, so can be trimmed, washed, brushed and blow-dried, and create a subtle and stylish look.</p>
With James Corden, Ruth Jones, Mathew Horne, Joanna Page and Alison Steadman, Gavin & Stacey series 1-3 Box Set, £18.99, from the <a href="http://www.bbcshop.com/" target="_blank">BBC Shop</a> follows the twists and turns of true love when a Welsh girl from Barry meets the Essex boy of her dreams. Now your teenager can watch all the episodes back to back.</p>
Retro and classy, this Leather Notebook, £7.50, from <a href="http://www.johnlewis.com/" target="_blank">John Lewis </a>is pocket-sized in which to store dates and ideas she mustn’t forget - with an elastic fastener so that she can tuck in tickets, receipts and letters that she doesn’t want to lose. Available in red, purple and black.</p>
With amazing names like Superworld Unknown to 1000 Kisses Deep, <a href="https://phoenix.lush.co.uk/" target="_blank">Lush’s</a> Solid Perfumes, £4.59 are just the right size to tuck into a pocket or purse so that your teenager can make herself smell delicious at all times. Go for a classic like Vanillary or be controversial with the bright red Lust.</p>
Available in blue, dark red and black, these Karma Eva Brothel Creepers, £55, from <a href="http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TopCategoriesDisplay?storeId=12556&catalogId=33057" target="_blank">Topshop </a>are, as Gok would say, completely on-trend while being eminently practical on icy winter streets.</p>
A brilliant film directed by Lynne Ramsay and starring Tilda Swinton, but she should read the Orange Prize-winning bestseller, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, £7.99 (Serpent’s Tail) as both paperback and ebook from major retailers to realise what caused this media storm. Compelling, creepy and impossible to put down.</p>