Our American visitor tells me he was a bit of a handful as a lad. His mother never knew where he was or what he was up to. Consequently she had to resort to tying a helium balloon to the belt on the back of his shorts
so that she could keep track on him.
I love that story. It tells such a lot about the little boy he was and the man he has become. His wife looks at him indulgently; I recognise that look as one I bestow on
Mr B from time to time when e comes out with a particularly impressive flight of fancy.
Actually, I may well pass on the balloon idea to the Middle of the Darling Daughters. It might just help with the marshalling
of The Rascal and the Twinkles - though I imagine the sight of three helium balloons heading into the distance - in three completely different directions - might induce what I believe was known in former times as A Fit of the Vapours.
The irony is not lost on me that, while the rest of the country is decked out in Union Jacks in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday, the flowerpot on our doorstep boasts two Stars and Stripes. Likewise the tray of champagne flutes
on the dining room table, all ready for a sparkling welcome for our Yankee Pals. They have been in London, soaking up the atmosphere of the national celebrations. London is, they say, their favourite city so far on their European travels.
I have cleared the guest bedroom of all the junk which is usually stored there - our visitors say it is by far the best room they have slept in since leaving home. At breakfast each morning I shamelessly copy my Little Sister
and serve up a "fruit plate" of strawberries, mango, grapes, blackberries, raspberries. Our guests take a photo of it to email to their friends back home. I think this can be called a Major Success.
sixteen years since we last saw Rod and Gina but it seems like only yesterday. The intervening years vanish over meals out to celebrate Mr B's and my anniversary and my birthday. They try out Sussex Belly Pork in one restaurant, Beef Wellington in another
and a sandwich of ham and mature Cheddar in an Arundel eaterie. " Make sure it's not immature Cheddar," Rod warns our waitress. You can tell she is not sure how to take him. It might have helped if he had had a helium balloon tied to the back of his belt...
Ah, yes, Arundel. I take them on a day out there, having carefully worked out a route which will show off the very best of that beautiful town. They love it to bits which is even more gratifying given my nightmare of
the previous night when I lost my way trying to navigate our exit from the Castle grounds. Most of my nightmares these days involve me losing my way in strange places and wandering around in a panic trying to escape. This is probably very meaningful in a scary,
dreamy sense but fortunately I always wake up safe in my bed so I have learnt not to worry too much about my Wanderings.
It's fascinating talking to American guests about the forthcoming Presidential Election,
their views on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, their verdict on Barack Obama's Presidency. They want to know where we stand on the EU Referendum, what we think will happen to the Monarchy in the long run, whether we were offended when Obama returned that
bust of Winston Churchill which used to grace the White House. It's all good, healthy debate.
Then, oh then, we hear about the tragic shootings in Orlando. We listen together, in despair, to the news reports.
We are united in shock and horror.
Somehow, having our American friends here with us as the news unfolds, brings the events much closer, makes them all the more
horribly real. I tell them about the bomb blasts in London on 7/7, the day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and how the following day Londoners came together in a massive gesture of defiance under the slogan "One City."
Today they left us, off on a trip taking in Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor. They certainly don't do things by halves. When they come back to England in a year or two, they tell us they plan to negotiate a home exchange with
willing Brits. At the moment, it's a toss-up between Her Maj at Windsor and the Duke of Norfolk at Arundel Castle.
I wouldn't put anything past them...