OK Latvia, I’m sorry for all the things I’ve said about you. I miss you. I want to come home. My throat is sore from saying ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ and ‘lovely day, isn’t it?’ to every passing stranger. My jaw hurts from all the smiling. I just want to be surly and left alone again. Is that too much to ask?
I’ve reached the end of week two of my summer school
sentence course and the novelty of life in England is starting to wear off. Aside from all the random chatter and obese women in clothes designed for 8-year olds, I’ve also got to contend with the token summer school weirdo. There’s one every year – the guy who somehow manages to appear normal enough to get through the interview, only to reveal that he is the world’s biggest oddball on arrival.
This year it’s ‘Interesting, isn’t it?’ man. No. No, it isn’t. Nothing you have ever said, are saying, or are going to say, will ever EVER be interesting. His only topic of conversation is teaching Business English in Hungary. Actually, no, I tell a lie. He can also bang on for hours about the EU and Hungary, the cost of living in Hungary, commuting in Hungary, how resistant Hungarians are to his ideas for a better Hungary, politics in Hunga… sorry, I nodded off for a second there.
This is a man who slept through the induction, got lost on his way to the breakfast room four days running, and still can’t get into the school by himself two weeks into the course. He also feels that trumpeting his nose into a hanky, pushing any stray food back into his mouth with the same hanky, and shedding dandruff on the table are all things the rest of us want to see at mealtimes. I might surprise him one day by doing a Latvian snot rocket right onto his plate.
‘Oh Linda, stop being melodramatic, he’s only one man. There must be other people you can talk to’, I hear you say. Enter Hypochondriac Girl. It’s not so much a matter of talking to her, as being talked at. The school has kindly put her in the bedroom opposite me. She leaves her door open all the time, and as I only have ‘porno shoes’ – thanks Latvia – and flip flops with me, it’s pretty difficult to slip by unnoticed. It’s at the stage where I can’t enter or leave my room without being drawn into another long-winded round of ‘what’s wrong with me today…’ After approximately 14 days, I now know more about her medical history than I know about my own.
This is the kind of person who goes to a gym induction session with everyone else, not because they have any actual intention of ever going to the gym, but rather because they have a new audience in the gym instructor. The poor man didn’t know what hit him when she reached the ‘Do you have any medical conditions?’ section of the form.
Luckily, a gimpy knee is one of her many ailments so my latest plan, hatched out of sheer desperation, was to go up and down as many stairs as I could while she was following me, talking. Her knee is now the size of a watermelon but she’s still following me up and down three flights of stairs 15 times a day, still talking – and I’m running out of ideas.
Every morning, I get a running commentary about the blister on her foot. And just in case I can’t visualise it for myself, she shows me its progress. I wonder how long you’d have to be colleagues with a Latvian before they’d show you their blisters? A long, long time I’m guessing.
But hey, at least the Director of Studies is on top of things. Yesterday, she spend an hour and fifteen minutes making a pencil holder out of an empty yogurt pot.
I miss my flat. I miss my privacy. I miss not having to speak to people all the time. I miss the particular brand of odd that is Latvia.
Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that…