Published in December 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
There is not much space on the pavements of Bath in the summer months. The reason for the crush is that the city is blooming with language schools for the well-heeled youth of continental Europe. They elbow us into the streets but they also bring employment and money. So when someone dropped a leaflet through my council house door inviting me to offer lodging to a foreign student, I was tempted to join the gravy train.
My friends were already on to this—squash your children into one room, sleep in the dining room yourselves—and, hey presto, money towards that better car or holiday. Or in my case, after years of unemployment and a spell as a mature student living off loans, money towards reducing the household debt.
Our children were keen to have their own students, all their friends had them, but we adults had our doubts. We have only two bedrooms and no dining room; the award-winning planners who designed our house saw fit to do without an entrance hall and so all doors open on to the living room. Where would we sleep? The arrival of another bank statement decided the issue—all five of us in one room and the students in the other.
I made a couple of enquiries and found myself immediately booked up: the language schools were desperate to place their students in an already saturated city. We resisted the temptation to redecorate the house and settled instead for a week’s cleaning and tidying. With one bedroom emptied of furniture except bed, table and a chest of drawers and the other jammed with wall-to-wall beds, bunks and boxes, we were at last ready to play host to a succession of wealthy juveniles.