Indeed, much of Borsetshire, and possibly other neighbouring counties too. We are hosting a delightful group of fourteen and fifteen year old German students on the return leg of this years foreign language exchange, although of course for them German is scarcely a foreign language...
Exchanges have changed a bit since my day when you were farmed off to a family somewhere in the "near abroad" (France in my case, since there was no possibility of a latin or ancient greek exchange-- chiz chiz*) still in short trousies, and left to fend for yourself. These days the poor kids seem to have some cultural thingumy laid on every day and just use their host's places to crash in, except at the weekend.
So this past Saturday saw the gates of Jest Acres thrown open to around a dozen of our visitors and a similar number of their hosts. We were all on our very bestest best behaviour. No Basil Fawltys, no mentions of Minehead**, no "Two world Wars and One World Cup"s. Not that I think the kids would have known or cared what the hell the fuss was all about.
As a baby of a baby boomer, the last great european unpleasentness, and indeed the one before, cast a very long shadow. Not so for this generation. It was wonderful to see them all lounging about on the beatifully manicured lawns (did I mention I'd mown them myself-- no?-- really?) chatting about football, Schumaker and Hamilton, swapping Ipods and generally getting on with being teenagers.
Being parents of a lad, we had not, so far encountered many of his female contemporaries, so those he had invited to our little barbie were as new to us as their German guests. Indeed we had to spend a moment or two sizing each little girlie huddle up come feeding time before knowing whether to speak normally (assuming they were Brits) or slowly and loudly in time honoured tradition (if not). I have to admit to getting it wrong at least once.
And during all this whatever the correct german term for "entente" building, there was I manfully flipping burgers and sizzling bangers on the barbie, wreathed in the heady smoke of carnivore heaven. There can be few jobs more satisfying than hunter gathering a shedload of meat patties, scorching them to an even charcoal black, then watching the resulting mound of meat products disappear. And such caveman cooking needs no language, but crosses all supposed cultural boundaries, taking us all back to simpler times.
And this was when I stumbled across a dichotomy. As recreation there is nothing finer than setting to, firing up a griddle and providing for your tribe and their guests. Yet as an occupation it has become something to look down on.
Sorry, but that was it really. No great revelations or damascene experiences, but a thoroughly pleasant weekend in the company of a bunch of charming teenagers who despite their differing languages had more in common with one another through their use of Ipods, MSN, email the ubiquitous mobile phone et al, than with their wrinkly parents. Somehow I find this massively reassuring. However screwed up the world we have made for them I've got a feeling this next generation are globalized enough to start to put aside our traditional tribalism and get on with the job of sorting it out, or at least of going down in style to some bangin' tunes as the flashes from their camera phones light up the night sky.
* and ** attract the usual cyber-hobnobs for correct provenance.