Category Archives: Languages

Flying royally

All roads lead to Holiday Bookwitch Towers. Maybe. I told you a couple of months ago about our unusual flight route here, but a witch can always come up with more different ways.

This week I went another unexpected way, and I did it alone. The Resident IT Consultant and I were flying to Copenhagen, yet again (but we are clearly doomed), this time via Heathrow. But with our first flight delayed, we’d miss our second. We have no idea what was going on in Denmark, but judging by the lack of seats on any plane, with any airline, the whole world was heading there.

Meanwhile, poor Daughter who hadn’t had a seat on our planes at all, went ahead with her separate travel plans, also to Copenhagen, but with another airline. She was due to arrive last, joining us driving across The Bridge. Obviously, she arrived first. Also obviously, she ended up catching a train out of Denmark.

Wanting to be around to help her kill any uninvited spiders, I eventually suggested I fly to Gothenburg. They found this a strange idea, but put me on that plane instead, where I ended up sharing the last row with a cello and its player.

The flight crew hesitated each time they made an announcement, but each time – just – remembered we were bound for Gothenburg. Except when we arrived, when they believed we were in Bergen. I heard them giggling behind me, as the two names ‘are so similar.’ They are not. They are not even in the same country.

Unable to drive over any bridges, I also caught a train, which I shared with eight airline pilots (see, even the pilots had no planes!), who – one by one – went off to the toilet to shed their uniforms. Thankfully they had jeans and stuff in those natty little black carry-on cases.

By this point the Resident IT Consultant actually had arrived in Copenhagen, because there was the small issue of a hired car to pick up to drive across The Bridge. And once the witch had been removed from the equation, there was one last seat out that day.

By bedtime we were all here, separate flights notwithstanding. The rather lovely cellist had asked if I’d change seats with her boyfriend, but having been given my favourite seat, I really didn’t want to give it up. I explained to her that I had sent my Resident IT Consultant not only on a different plane, but to a different country, and she conceded that when you’re older you might do that.

Older, hah!

Is it all because of Ladybird books?

Would I even be here if it weren’t for Ladybird books?

Years ago I blogged (rather peculiarly, it strikes me now) about Ladybird books, and how they were not part of my past, and how I almost resented this. But now it seems to me as though that one book I bought at the age of ten and could barely read, might have set me up for life. Where would I be if I hadn’t?

I have always ‘blamed’ my fascination for the UK on Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, and while it is still true that they inspired me, I now feel I must add my sensible Ladybird book. People here think back to those days, when both they and Britain were different. I actively went in search of this charming country where children walked around in those T-bar shoes and boys wore shorts and had haircuts like they did in old films.

And there was cake.

I so wanted to go and see the Ladybird exhibition in Bexhill; not just for the books, but for the De La Warr Pavilion as well. But it was all too much at the other end of the country to be realistic. The exhibition is in London now. Can I make it to London? I don’t know.

The article in the Guardian a few weeks ago made me feel many things. It was fascinating to read that someone’s real birthday party actually ended up in the book. I mean, surely that’s the complete opposite of today’s fantasy books; finding your own reality in a book. I knew I wanted to be part of it, except you can’t wish your own past away.

Perhaps I can take up collecting Ladybird books? Not terribly original as ideas go, but maybe I can fake a new past? I never did wear shoes like that. The one time I got close to it, the woman in the shoeshop pointed out I was an adult and couldn’t have them.

I’ve got it covered #2

Kodnamn Verity. You can tell what book it is, can’t you? My second favourite book ever, Code Name Verity. In Swedish. It’s – not surprisingly – very good in translation (by Carina Jansson) as well. I could easily have slipped and spent all night reading it again.

Just like my friend Pippi did recently. When she visited earlier this year, she asked what she should read. Because she was in Stirling, and in Scotland, and because I used to live in Stockport, where she had also visited, I suggested Code Name Verity. Not necessarily believing she’d obey or remember. But it seems she did.

Pippi emailed me to say she’d been kept awake reading until half past two. That’s the sort of thing I like to hear.

Elizabeth Wein, Kodnamn Verity

I thought Elizabeth Wein might like to hear it too, so I made sure she did. Because I leave no one in peace. What’s more, Elizabeth sent me a copy of Kodnamn Verity, so that I can enjoy this marvellous book in more than one language.

The cover is great. I’d seen it online before, but it’s actually much nicer in the flesh. The whole book has a nice feel to it. When I’ve finished stroking it, I might put it away. Or I could always have an accident and…

A borrowed interview

And while I’ve not got much time to blog, I have a borrowed interview to offer you.

Cambridge University’s Varsity had the good taste to interview ‘old’ girl Marnie Riches about her novel The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die.

I’m only a little annoyed. I wish I’d thought of it. And I wish I’d done it so well.

That’s all.

Read it here.

Anglaise

It was the fact that the Swiss HR person had made Daughter anglaise (and she sort of is, half) that influenced me. The first thing we saw as we exited Geneva railway station (after a free – yes – train ride from the airport, on a journey that was almost shorter than the three language announcement for passengers) was a red double decker bus parked across the road. The old style kind, which makes me think of London, which made me say ‘look, an English bus!’

The anglaise Offspring has better eyesight, so she laughed and pointed out that it wasn’t. ‘Can’t you see what the sign says?’ So, this was a double decker – once – bound for Falkirk. Via Kilsyth.

Muppets go to Kilsyth

Once we’d turned in the right direction, we found our hotel, a little bit too uphill for tired and hot witches, but fine when we got there. The (probably Ukrainian) receptionist spoke Swedish, as well as English and French. Naturally. At breakfast the waiters switched effortlessly into English, as did the cleaner. The taxi driver, who was clearly some kind of foreign, immediately rescued us non-French speakers with perfect English. Swiss enough to give another driver the finger, but otherwise most polite.

The places we had our meals in all served us in English (didn’t think to try Swedish). I know, we should have tried harder, and I will, once I know the French for cone. The elderly lady on the short train journey bid us adieu, whereas the chap in Migros said au revoir, and maybe he will, one day.

While Daughter sorted out her anglaise-ness with HR, I walked around town, only resting twice in the English church; once out and once on the way back. I rested some more in the English park, with nice views of the lake.

Lake Geneva

Don’t misunderstand me; I maintain my love for the UK, for the people, the weather and the food. I don’t mind if the British don’t daily switch between five languages. But I mind going to London hotels and being served by people who don’t actually understand English.

It’s just unfortunate that ten years ago I asked Daughter’s school to excuse her from learning French. It was the right request to make at the time, but now it would have been convenient with some basic French knowledge.

I like the orderliness of every balcony in a block of flats having the same colour and pattern awnings. And I might just advise Daughter against the flats for rent in the red light district. The area had seemed ideal, until we walked round and found rather more than we had bargained for.

We’ll see how it goes. The talking, the flat-hunting, and all that. But at least at Migros they have self-checkouts where you don’t suffer from unexpected items in bagging area. It worked so fast and efficiently that even I might try it one day. If it’s au revoir.

A little learning never hurt anyone

Bon jour!

I have come to the realisation that I may have to learn French. After all these years.

This paltry blog post and my language musings come to you courtesy of 36 hours in Geneva and very little sleep. I was requested by Daughter to accompany her there, when she went to do a little recce, as it seems she might spend the next few years there. And reccing is better done in company.

I recced a little extra while she met with important people out near the French border. The kind of place where your mobile phone believes it is in France. I got to go and look at the nice parks where you can sit in the shade of the trees, staring out across the waters of the lake. Where you can maybe have some ice cream while doing so.

In which case it helps to know if you want that ice cream in a hmm or a hmm. By default I ended up with a cone, as it seemed clear(-ish) I didn’t want the ‘other thing.’ It’s interesting being like an immigrant again, but in a situation where you don’t speak the language.

It is of course possible to speak Swedish. You can say adjö and trottoar and toalett and you’ll be quite right. But I might want to learn to string those very useful words together, to make sentences. To make sense.

This post was brought to you by Hot in Geneva.

Merci.

I will have had my tea

The Resident IT Consultant gave me nettle seeds, and a book covered with thistles, for my birthday.

Well, there was a book under the cover, and it’s not as thorny as it sounds. In fact, I’m pretty impressed he managed to smuggle this gift in his luggage, considering I’m the boss here.

A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable by Ian Crofton, was either chosen for me because I complain I don’t understand what people say. Or – and this is more likely – because he himself wanted to read this book. It’s all very well me owning a huge 500+ pages of a book of explanations to what people are saying, but first I need to catch what they say, which is harder than working out the meaning of it.

I’m fond of the phrase ‘ye’ll have had yer tea’ but I didn’t know it’s what Glaswegians claim people in Edinburgh say to them when they visit. And apparently Ned is not an acronym for non-educated delinquent, which is a disappointment.

As for nicknames I once saw Badger in the queue for security at Edinburgh airpost.  The Broon turned up in Charlotte Square a couple of times when I was there. And we have just had to say goodbye to Champagne Charlie.

(Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, Charles Kennedy.)

Curry Alley sounds nice, but it seems most of the curry houses in this Glasgow street have disappeared. Flit is what we did last year, and it’s not hard to see it’s almost the same as the Swedish flytta. Gilmerton Cove turned up in a recent crime novel, so I have clearly picked up a very little bit of knowledge this year.

And you simply ‘cannae shove yer granny aff a bus.’ It would be most unkind. Besides, she might ‘mak a fraik aboot’ it.

I’ll be a while reading my way through this tome.