Visitors during hibernation time

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It passed off without serious incident, nobody lost an eye, any limbs or suffered deep emotional trauma.

And when you’ve had a foreign exchange student living in your house for a week, that’s about the best outcome you can hope for.

We had a wonderful time showing a Spanish teenager the sights and sounds of North West England in February. But because it’s dark for about 16 hours a day at this time of year, it makes you realise we basically hibernate from late October to early March.

Everything we do is indoors, we only venture out when absolutely necessary. Our local trips out with our guest included a visit to a nearby pub for dinner and to a countryside ice cream parlour where we met up with some of her friends. These Spanish kids must think all the English do is lounge around and eat.

The language barrier wasn’t insurmountable for me and the boss thanks to Google Translate. The English have a habit, when talking to people from overseas, of speaking loudly and waving their arms around. Daughters #1 and #2 speak Spanish so they were okay. But once we adults had tried and failed to get our message across via the medium of the world’s most frustrating game of charades, out came the smartphones and a few tappity-tap-taps later, our stilted attempts at conversation were moderately successful.

Even our lurcher Walter played his part, by sprawling across our guest and chewing her wrists as a sign of affection every chance he got. He’s about 5ft from end to end now and weighs in at just under 19kg of solid muscle. She didn’t seem to mind too much.

Everyone seemed to get on well. Our student was polite and friendly and she had an enjoyable time here – well, about as good a time as you can have in England in the middle of winter, a month after Christmas when everyone’s skint and are fanning the embers of early January’s health and fitness regime.

Then before we knew it, it was time to go. Five o’clock on a Monday morning is a brutal departure time but that’s why early morning flights on budget airlines are often dirt cheap and our visitors were back in Spain in time for breakfast.