Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 1 November 2014
I have thought about doing some more guest posts along the lines of the others, but I cannot seem to think of a way of doing them without unintentionally hurting or upsetting others, rather than giving us all a break from listening to me droning on.
If I did Britta, I would have to concentrate on her charming use of English as a second language, and every time I have met someone who wants to polish their English by being corrected on every little nuance until there is no trace of accent left, I refuse to go along with it on the grounds that - aside from content - this is a great part of their charm for me and I would be sad to see it go.
I waved goodbye to T2 yesterday, and I was sad to see him go too. His grasp of English is not quite as polished as T1's, but the meaning and humour comes through as strong as it would if it were not watered-down by perfect English.
I was once sitting with him - probably in a pub - and there was a lull in the conversation, probably because I was tired.
Eventually he turned to me and said in a straight voice, "I think you are very boring."
I looked into his eyes and could find no trace of irony or any hint of a smile on his face, and I realised that he really meant what he said. I was temporarily nonplussed and not a little shocked.
Then I understood that he meant to say, 'I think you are very bored' and was asking if I was ok. Moments like these are wonderful, and would never happen if perfect English was spoken.
In one of the places I have lived, we had an African postman. Being non-English, he soon became a friend and would stop for a cup of tea with me during his round. I looked forward to his early morning visits - once I had learned how to converse in the way that he used to do with his friends and neighbours in the village of his birth.
As time goes on, we are losing the art of real conversation in this country, and this problem has been exacerbated by the widespread use of cocaine amongst the last two generations, along with the assertion that we must all be more assertive in order to get along in the workplace or even just get along with each other without being beaten in some sort of verbal competition. We constantly interrupt each other now, often butting-in halfway through a sentence.
I soon learnt that - in order to get the meaning of the African postman's conversation - you had to hear him out from beginning to end. His stories were circular, and made no sense until the last word joined up with the first, having gone all the way round.
If you broke the circle by interrupting him, he could never meaningfully finish his story. That's just the way it was, and - unlike English - there were no tangents.
In his culture, it is also the height of impoliteness to say anything for about 30 seconds after the other person has finished talking. To do so would indicate that you have not properly digested the other person's message, but just want to give your own point of view above all else.
Some cultures produce natural poets who carefully structure the most ordinary observations, adding a beauty to them which is rarely found in the banter of British pubs.