Monday 5 October 2015

Lost in translation

My Beloved recently remarked that he'd quite like us to go on holiday to Germany next year, so I thought I'd better start learning a few useful words and phrases.  OK, so I can already say 'the polar bear is in the fridge and he's eating all the cheese', but how often is that likely to come up?

Actually, I was pleased to realise that I appear to have picked up quite a few words in German over the years.

 {Although, to be fair, the dog probably knows more than I do, having sat through rather more hours watching the History Channel with my Beloved than I have.}
In the 1970s my mum had a German boss, and when he happily agreed to teach the language to his co-workers in the Accounts Department she used to wander round our flat pointing at things and muttering random numbers, so I can count up to 100.  A teenage holiday with friends taught me how to ask about trains, and the polar bear turned up many years later when my daughter was revising for her GCSEs.

Since I'm probably going to need a bit more than that to get by next year, {drei Eisbären im Kühlschrank, aber kein Käse} I've found a free online course that seems quite good so far.  After only a few days, I can confidently inform any German speaker who might be interested that I'm a woman, I'm eating bread and reading a book.  Although that ought to be obvious and, if I was doing those things, it's unlikely that I'd want to start talking to anyone.

As you'd expect of a writer, I rather like words, and I did an online taster course in Welsh a couple of years ago.  The presentation was similar to the German course, but the order in which the vocabulary was taught was completely different.  I wonder if this has anything to do with the respective cultures of the countries concerned?  I can ask the whereabouts of a number of things in Welsh - keys, cases, the bank, the hospital {but, sadly, not understand the answer}.  In German, however, I can so far only make statements about people's gender {and, to a limited degree, species} and what they're eating, drinking and reading.
Are the Welsh geographically challenged, or constantly losing things?  Or do they just take delight in hiding things from foreigners?

Do the Germans not care where anything is, so long as they've got something to read and know if you're a man?

This apparent difference in basic philosophy might explain a mystery in my own family background.  My great-grandmother was Welsh, and her husband was German.  When he filled in the 1911 census, he recorded her as a lunatic!

In French lessons at school, the first verb we were taught, after 'to be' was, 'to have'.  In German, however, whilst 'to be' still comes first, 'to have' is only the fifth verb I have encountered.   Eating and reading appear to be much more important.  And the second most important verb?  To drink!  I'm starting to look forward to next year's holiday!

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Going undercover

I was following a woman in Hull this morning.... that sounds bad!  I wasn't stalking her, just happened to be behind her and going in the same direction.  Anyway, she looked a bit different {Honestly, I've never seen her before - I mean different from other people that I've seen recently} and I realised that it was what she was wearing.... a chunky-knit woolly cardigan.   And she wasn't the only one - other people were wearing them too.  Suddenly it's autumn!

Perversely, for someone who feels the cold as much as I do, I love this season.  It's still warm enough to go outdoors occasionally, but with a sharpness in the air that's just enough to make you remember you're alive.  It's a time of fresh starts, and new exercise books and, yes, woolly jumpers.  I no longer have to dither about getting dressed or packing to go away, wondering if I'll need to take a jumper; I'm already wearing two.
{Interesting semantic point here; what I, probably quaintly,  call a jumper, others would call a sweater or possibly a pullover.  Although I suspect that, if we're being picky, pullovers don't have sleeves.  Now 'sweater' and 'pullover' I understand - the names make sense in terms of the garment in question.  But 'jumper'? The only connection I can come up with is that it refers to the sheep that the wool came from.  Not that sheep jump a lot, except when they're very young, and then it's more like bouncing.  I suppose it could lead to all sorts of unfortunate misunderstandings if we called those garments 'bouncers'.} 
Picture: © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed forreuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Another reason I don't have to think about what to put on is that I have a new job, for which I have to wear a uniform - and it includes a lovely thick sweatshirt and a fleece.  I've never had a fleece before.  I'd seen them, obviously, but never felt the need of one; they're what you wear for hiking, surely, and other general outdoorsy stuff.  And then there are the other kind of fleeces... one of my most surreal experiences was when I went to see a Queen tribute band a few years ago, and noticed that most of the audience were wearing fleeces with pictures of animals on them.
So I've tended to dismiss the idea of ever owning one myself, but I have to admit I'm a convert.  It's so cosy! And it has pockets to keep my hands warm in!  {You will be relieved to learn that my fleece is plain dark blue, and the only picture on it is a discreet logo.}  I don't want to wear it all the time though,  so now I'm home for the day I've wrapped myself up in my blanket rather than put the heating on.  It is only September, after all!

{After I wrote this I tried cooking some pasta sauce, but that didn't feel like a good idea to be doing while wrapped in a blanket.... so I gave in and switched on the heating.}


Tuesday 8 September 2015

Two B's

I was rather worried a few weeks ago, when I awoke to a loud buzzing sound.  No, not.. um.. electrical equipment. "It must be a bee", I thought.  "At least it can't get in." I have the sort of windows that you can lock open, leaving just a tiny gap. 

Nothing can get through there, especially the giant bees we get here in the north.  They're probably wearing three extra jumpers under their coats, to keep warm.  I know I have to.

When I woke properly, about an hour later, there was an enormous furry bumble bee sitting in the aforesaid gap.  It has been unseasonably warm this summer, so  perhaps this one wasn't wearing so much.

Now, you have to understand that I have a horror of anything with wings.  {Including planes, and those rather creepy armchairs you find in gentlemen's clubs.  I can just about deal with owls, so long as they're folded up.} so it took a few minutes of me going "Eeeew!" and flapping my hands about before I could bring myself to summon up all my courage and open the window properly.  The bee didn't move.  Perhaps it was dead, but I still wasn't going to touch it.  I huffed and puffed for a bit, but eventully managed to blow it out of the window.

OK, so what were the chances of something like that happening again?  Pretty slim, I thought, so I decided to risk leaving the window locked open.  It is only a very small gap, after all.  Also, I have fairly substantial roller blinds; even if another insect did get in, it's unlikely to get past that and actually into the room while I slept.

Imagine my feelings, then, when I glanced at the candle lamp on my windowsill the other morning....

 ..... and saw a little furry bat lying in the sand.
 {I know, I know, I should have taken a picture at the time.  I was a bit preoccupied.}

Surely it couldn't have got in through the window? It was about the size of an egg, for goodness sake!  With wings.  However, a rapid survey of the ceiling confirmed that there were no holes, and the bedroom door is such a tight fit that I have to use both hands to close it.  That left only one possibility - a bat, an actual bat, had clambered in through my bedroom window in the middle of the night.  Eeeeeeeee!  I managed to get close enough to slide my tea tray over the top of the vase, then called my Beloved to take it all away.

Hmm... so that's two occasions on which something brown and furry has climbed in through my bedroom window in the night, and they do say that things come in threes.  At least burglars aren't generally known for being brown and furry, so I can only hope that the next thing isn't a bear!