Geneva Airport, being the regional low-cost hub, is the accepted point of arrival and departure for visiting friends and family members. They all like to visit, but no-one likes to go to the expense of flying to the airport that is on my doorstep. They like me to work for their company, by flying into an airport that is an hour and half’s drive across the mountains. And then when they arrive, I spend the whole time worrying that they’re not having a great time and taking personally anything negative they say about anywhere I take them to. As you can imagine, I love it when friends and family come to stay….
And this week has seen an almost textbook family visit.
Step one. I rush around my apartment removing anything likely to offend the sensibility of junior, senior or just-plain-sensitive family members. I make sure photo’s of visiting relatives are prominently on display and that any artwork previously provided by children of visitors is attached to fridge.
Step two. I take the train to the airport and rent a bigger car. My own car is great - perfectly sized for almost any parking space that your average European city can throw at it. It also has enough va va voom to get it up and over medium sized mountains but, alas, is too small to carry anyone but me, a very close friend and enough bags for a weekend away. So my visitors get the treat of a rental car (usually at my expense, can I point out).
Step three. I wait at the arrivals area where I invariably have to stop myself from shedding a few tears at the emotional welcome a complete stranger has received from his/her own family. This is the kind of welcome everyone should get when they come through customs. I, naturally, never get such an outpouring of emotion – if there ever is anyone to meet me, it’s a sartorial disaster-zone of a taxi driver with my name spelt incorrectly on a piece of A4.
Step four. We head home en famille, usually for a few days in Lyon, where I send them out shopping and sightseeing whilst I get on with work. Often this ‘work’ involves me taking a long bath or reading a book in peace. This is almost always followed by a weekend away in a rented apartment or cottage somewhere not too far away where we cook cottage pie, drink lots of cheap red and generally stay up late reminiscing.
Step five. We all pretend to be having a great time, yet when we retire to our individual sleeping areas it is considered acceptable ring ‘best friend’ to bitch about the people who are visiting. To go into drunken detail about why they are the worst people on earth and why it would be so much better if it was ‘best friend’ visiting instead. OK, so it’s just me who does this….
Step six. I spend the last two days wishing I had some time to myself. Wishing I didn’t have to translate every menu, be the only person capable of ordering in French and being the one who goes into shops and asks for ‘that one, there’ because no-one else is brave enough.
Step seven. I drop them all off at the airport, breathe a huge sigh of relief, text best friend to say ‘they’ve gone, hooray!’ and then cry all the way home, feeling bereft of company and desperate to move back to the UK and be closer to these people.
Step eight. I phone a ‘sure thing’ from the train home and arrange a date for that evening. I go on said date, get some gins inside us both, take him home and wake up the next morning as if it had all been a dream…
And so life goes on. Back to normal, back to routine. I’m heading home on the train now and have already called Robert, my Lyon ‘sure thing’ and set up this evening’s entertainment.
I’m not saying I don’t miss my family and friends – I do. But do I really want to live next door to any of them? Next question, please…..