Jackie Little: The Charmer
Scoop's Jackie Little ponders the absurdities of modern life.
I was in the midst of an article concerning the joys of joining a school outing (Bet you're kicking yourselves that you're missing out on that) when an e-mail from a beloved friend back in the mother country brought back a flood of possibly repressed memories about my experience last Summer of the Visitor From Hell.
I'd had a phone call from said Best Friend a couple of months before, saying a pal of hers was taking a couple of years out for travel and would be in our neck of the woods at some stage and could she put him in touch with me.
Brilliant!, Always delighted to meet someone from home and catch up on the doings of auld acquaintance. I had never met this chap, but he apparently knocked around with the union crowd with whom I shared many a jolly rally in the dim and distant past.
So gaily, I skipped off at the appointed time to meet my new friend at the Magic Bus dropping off point.
He was an unprepossessing sight, but one can't judge on appearances doncha know and I moved to embrace this current closest link to my friends back home, only to be firmly rebuffed with the admonition that my guest didn't "go in for all that continental crap". Oh.
the five minute drive home I enquired eagerly about my
nearest and dearest in Blighty and learnt:
a/ that he wasn't "that close" to any of the friends;
b/that he doesn't really socialise though he did once go to my friends' party for 15 minutes ("which was very gracious of me"); and
c/ that he "doesn't like people".
Clearly the weekend was going to be a bundle of laughs.
At home I introduced him to the three sons, the eldest of whom had been really looking forward to making a friend from overseas.. However an invitation from said eager young thing for this charmer to join him in a game of Monopoly was summarily dismissed on the grounds that the board game was evil capitalist propaganda.
And it went on from there. He was, he informed me, a political animal (which description less required pointing out I wasn't sure). Specifically a Trotskyite.
He didn't believe in private assets which is why he didn't own a house though his extensive world tour was funded by a reasonably vast personal fortune (Huge wads of cash, do not apparently constitute assets, nor the three mountain bikes it later transpired he owns).
Challenged on the rather obvious question of whether he didn't have a moral obligation to give away all his dosh to the deserving poor, the splendid fellow informed me he was entitled to it because he (and he alone apparently) "didn't exploit anyone."
(Further challenged on his flash, sweatshop produced trainers, he explained to his dim witted host that he didn't own the sweatshops so was not being exploitative, Ah Right!)
He didn't believe in giving presents - an apparent non sequiteur - later I realised that this was a courtesy warning to my greedy, capitalist expectations, that no token of appreciation for hospitality would be forthcoming, not so much as a box of scorched almonds.
He didn't believe in marriage though he supposed people should participate in it if they really wanted (thanks for the vindication pal).
By the way, this is no idealistic and naÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¯ve 20-something we're talking here, the guy was well into his fifties.
The non stop spouting of this utter bolloÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦.., sorry, drivel, was driving my hackles dangerously high, so I set off to prepare the evening repast - having been duly warned that my new best friend didn't like seafood amongst various other things (back to the freezer for the King Prawns then).
Meal ordeal over, I went to stack the dishwasher. "I see you've got a dishwasher" observed my guest brightly and disapprovingly. Shame on me! After all, I've only got three kids requiring three squares a day, preferably eaten off clean crockery. Back to the scullery with me!!!
Never, have I known time to pass more slowly. One brief interlude at the beach with the kids (our hero is an outdoor buff) showed a pleasanter side of the chap but all in all, I'm sorry but it was hard work and never was my heart lighter than on the return trip to the Magic Bus stop. Magic indeed.
When my dear friend - who only ever sees the best in folk which is one of the many reasons I love her - rang to enquire how we had got on, I could not tell a lie and had to confess that I had never been so glad to see the back of anyone in my life.
The poor woman was overcome with contrition, but I assured her that something wildly positive was bound to come out of the experience (And it has, you were going to get the school bus trip this week, remember?). I hope to heaven it doesn't put her off sending future guests because it certainly hasn't stopped me wanting to meet them.
The charmer was surely an eccentric one off and all unique people are to be cherished. It's just easier to do the cherishing from the other side of the globe.
By the way, he ran up a $13 phone bill behind my back!
See you next week , don't go thinking you got away with the school outing anecdote.