English As She Should Be Spoke

Over the course of a lifetime, I’ve seen many strange messages written on the back of lavatory doors, and as a translator and former language teacher, I’m super sensitive to quirky formulations in any of the languages in which I’m proficient, so when I saw this in a public toilet I just had to snap it for posterity.


Rhyming couplets are a popular form of humorous doggerel in German, but sadly, a literal translation into the other languages with no rhyme or rhythm just results in puzzlement. The humour is also lost. Are you supposed to sweep the place? Not deface the walls with graffiti?  No, just look back at the lavatory bowl and if necessary, use the brush to wipe it clean in consideration of the person who will be following you here. A request to leave the place as you would wish to find it. But I wonder how many English, Italian or French speakers actually understood this, if they didn’t speak German? Did anyone attempt to clean the toilet with a broom (scopa, balai)?

Through the years, I have acquired a small collection of these awkward translations. One that made me giggle was on a menu in Brittany, where croque-monsieur was translated fairly adequately into English as “ham and cheese on toast” and then into German as “Schinken und Käse am Trinkspruch”. For non-German-speakers, the word “Trinkspruch” is indeed toast,  but refers to raising your glass to drink to a person’s health – “toast” in the non-bread sense.

Another one from Brittany:


Here the sense is clear enough, and I trust that any English speakers on “earing the audio signal” were not drowned. Someone must have commented on this sign, as it was later removed and replaced by a version in perfectly correct English.

The following label adorned a pair of jeans I once bought:


I was never able to confirm whether the expert ‘s tasting was accurate, as I don’t ride, but I don’t recall deriving any particular pleasure in the street from wearing this garment!

Finally, a notice enclosed with a packet of tea, beautifully calligraphed in Chinese on the reverse, that did indeed afford my mother “exceedingly noble enjoyment”. She wasn’t so impressed by the tea, but did like the idea of “merrily drinking” it. We never discovered if it really did enlighten drunkenness and cure sunstroke.


The Catalyst

Brakes screeched, the dog yelped, the woman screamed and the driver swore.

As he leapt out of the car, prepared to wring her neck for letting her stupid mutt dash out like that, he was almost incandescent. But he saw at once that she was already so overcome there was no point in piling obscenities onto her. The dog was shivering and trembling, but there didn’t seem to be any blood. He took a deep breath.

“Shall I run you to the vet’s with him?” he suggested, with an apparent calm mastery of the situation he didn’t feel. “It’s the least I can do, under the circumstances.”

She blinked and swallowed hard, and he saw the tears welling up. She nodded. “Please.”.

An hour later, with the welcome news that the dog had only superficial injuries, they stood outside the vet’s office again. “Let me take you home,” he offered, “I don’t think either of you is really fit to walk any distance. Where do you live?”

She hesitated, then told him. It was indeed a couple of miles and the dog was still limping.

He seemed a decent chap in spite of the amazing string of epithets he had flung at her at the scene of the accident, and she felt he certainly owed her some kind of recompense for the distress he had caused.

On arrival at her house, he picked up the dog and carried him to the door. It seemed churlish to simply say thank you and goodbye so she invited him in for a cup of tea. As they chatted, they found they had much in common and it was a couple of hours before he left her cosy home, not forgetting to ask for her phone number so that he could check on the dog’s progress.

Six months later, they were married. The dog, of course, was also present, since he had been the unwitting cause of their acquaintance, wearing a large white bow on his collar. Both bride and groom bore scars from previous unsuccessful relationships, but they agreed that Providence had brought them together and as time was no longer on their side, they might as well make an effort to follow the path that Destiny was laying so clearly before them.

Their daily walks with the dog took them past the scene of their first meeting, and the route became a blessed pilgrimage trail for them. One particular house located right next to the place of their accident drew their attention.

“That would be my dream home,” she said one day as they strolled past the garden gates, peeking inside. “Isn’t it just perfect?” He acknowledged that it was indeed a beautiful place and very desirable residence, and they continued their walk. About two weeks later, as they approached their sacred spot, they noticed a For Sale sign outside the dream house. What if …?

When the owners heard their serendipitous story, they felt they had no choice: this was obviously a scenario being written by a divine hand, and the sale went through without a hitch. A year to the day of their first meeting, they moved into the house overlooking that momentous place.

On the other side of the road, stationed at her post in the garden of the house opposite, the cat watched with interest. She didn’t show herself until the woman let the dog off the leash. Then she ducked under her garden gate and sauntered provocatively along the grass verge. The dog dived straight through a gap in the hedge, rushing full pelt at his feline target.

Brakes screeched, the dog yelped, the woman screamed and the driver swore. The cat purred.


Bed-hopping Challenges

Nowadays, it isn’t the alarm clock but my bladder that rouses me from my dreams. Sometimes in the early hours, my brain still asleep, my body knows I need to get out of bed and autopilot myself to the bathroom. Normally these moments of somnambulism pose no problem, but in the last week I have slept in four different beds in various houses, most confusing for my inner sat-nav.

At my mother’s house and at my daughter’s, I need to get out of bed on the right-hand side (though depending on which room my daughter has put me in, there may be stairs to negotiate), in my own place and at my friend’s it’s the left-hand side. To complicate matters further, I arrived back from my mother’s (right), stayed one night at my daughter’s (right), spent one night in my own bed (left) followed by a night at my friend’s (left), back to my own home (left), two nights at my daughter’s (right) and back home again (left).

In the pitch-blackness of 3 am this morning, it took me a good five minutes to figure out where I was, which side of the bed to climb out of, and which direction to go in. As I attempted to walk through the wall where the doorway wasn’t, orientation returned and I was able to accomplish my mission with no further mishap.

There’s something to be said for the old custom of a chamber-pot under the bed!

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

She knows how to make a dramatic entrance. Exactly a week after the stork was due, my newest little great-granddaughter finally decided the time was ripe. She didn’t want to be a Saturday’s child (“works hard for its living”) but instead, aware that “the child that is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay” she delayed until four minutes after midnight before slipping into the world on the second Sunday in Advent, the day we light the candle for Peace.

Joline is here. My granddaughter’s children all have unusual names, but my instant reaction was, “What, Dolly Parton?” No, I am assured that the initial ‘J’ is pronounced as in French, like ‘jolie’ which is some relief. Because she is, of course, très jolie, beautiful. Like all my children (grandchildren, great-grandchildren).

I had just stepped out of a nice warm bath, all relaxed and ready to slide under my cosy duvet, when I received the message that my granddaughter had left for the hospital. It was just after ten pm. Knowing that my granddaughter is one of those truly fortunate women who give birth relatively easily, I decided to wait a couple of hours for further news. And yes, she didn’t disappoint: just as I was giving up and finally going to bed, a text message popped up announcing that Joline had arrived, weighing in at 3840 g, which is something over 8 lbs.

Few children get such a hearty welcome as this little mite. As is usual in Switzerland, her Daddy was present at the birth. Since it was the weekend, not only my daughter (Joline’s Nana) had gone to babysit the other children, but my son-in-law (their grandfather) was also there. So that was the reception committee when she arrived home from the hospital. And then such delight when her siblings woke up and rushed to cuddle their new little sister, not to mention that both her aunts and her paternal grandparents then turned up. I’d be there, too, if it wasn’t quite so far – my home is 140 km away, so I shall have to wait a while before I can visit – but hallelujah! We have the ability to share photos instantly nowadays, so here she is, just a few hours old:joline-04-12-2016

What a wonderful gift for Advent!

Until Death Us Do Part

A small group of old pals have been trying to arrange a little get-together including an old friend of mine, now in his mid-eighties. We knew that his wife was suffering from dementia and that he is her sole carer, but have been sorry to discover that although he has several grown-up children and grandchildren, nobody is available to spend an evening looking after this poor lady in order to allow him to have a couple of carefree hours. He defended his family, saying:

The problem is leaving her with anybody, even X (her daughter), as she doesn’t know who they are!  She asks me several times a day who I am and will I take her home to her Mom and Dad … Unless you have personally experienced the incredible effects of dementia it all sounds ‘made up’.  I assure you, it’s even worse than that!  They do hope to have a cure in 10 years’ time. Ha, bloody Ha.

I suggested she might be able to spend a day or two in a care home for respite now and then, to give him a rest. Or perhaps, since she was so disoriented and unable to recognise even her closest family members that she wouldn’t realise where she was, to place her in a home permanently, and I recommended the nursing home where my mother is.

This was the heart-rending reply.

Cat, I’m not sure I could afford it on my smallish pension. And I’d feel like a total traitor. We started courting nearly 69 years ago, have been married over 64 years and it did say, ‘for better or worse’. I’m not sure it could get any worse and I’m somehow surviving so I shall let it ride for now to see what fate has in store.

She clings to me so desperately it’s touching to watch.

I could do with getting out I’ll admit, just to chat etc.  But I can’t create the opportunity without enormous upset.  Let’s see what happens and if X can help. She has been tremendous. 

What makes this particularly moving is that I know they didn’t really have a good marriage and had considered divorce more than once. As the years advanced, they agreed to make the best of the situation for the sake of their family, and stayed together. They lived together but independently, each pursuing their own interests, and were able to remain friends, even occasionally going out together to concerts or the the theatre, interests they still shared. So this isn’t a case of a devoted, loving couple, but of an honorable man who made a promise he is determined to keep whatever the circumstances.

I think of so many couples in love who make their marriage vows easily and carelessly, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health*”, without any thought of what that might entail, and who give up and separate when the pendulum swings to the poorer, worse, and sick side. For our friend, who feels that he somehow failed to “love and to cherish” his bride quite as well as he might, this ordeal is his chance to make amends over and above any duty that could be expected of him. I pray it will not kill him.


*Wedding vows of the Church of England:

Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.


They got Not-Hillary; We got a hairball; It’s time to move on.


Like half of my country, I’m still reeling from the outcome of Election 2016. My worst fears have come true and I’m eating my proclamation from many months back that Trump was the Democrats’ wet dream. Turns out he managed to fuck the entire Democratic party and half of the voting public.

But, the other half of the voting public got their wish. They bought the bravado, the piss-on-you attitude, the unbelievable ignorance about issues and diplomacy, the errant-emails-are-worse-than-my-bankruptcies assumption, the protectionism, and the pry-my-AR15-out-of-my-dead-fingers promise, the lower-my-taxes AND Make-America-Great-Again nonsense, and they are as happy about this result as the rest of us were happy eight years ago, and again four years ago when we got our most beloved president.

Well what to do now? I spent November 9th moping around, sucker-punched, and on the verge of tears. I’ve divorced myself from the news with its proliferation of idiot pundits trying…

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Yarn, Yarn, Yawn …

I mentioned my crochet briefly in my last post, so it’s only fair to update the knitter-natterers among my readers. The rest of you can safely stop reading at this point. It’s fairly obvious that I’ll never achieve great renown in the world of needlecraft, but that by no means diminishes my pleasure in my work and I feel quite proud of my latest project in spite of its flaws.

Once again, I’m blaming my Darling Daughter for leading me astray, into Olivia’s Little Shop of Woolly Delights. This time I was unable to resist some yarn made of 100% linen in a sludgy mud colour, that Olivia and DD both declared matched my hair. I think that observation was intended as a compliment and I was intrigued by the idea of crocheting with linen so I blew a hundred-frank note on a bag of 10 skeins with no idea of what I would do with it.

While I cogitated on possible incarnations for the linen yarn, I made a cosy granny blanket in some bluish-grey wool that DD passed on, saying she hadn’t liked the colour for the garment she had started making with it. Or maybe she felt guilty for making me spend so much at Olivia’s?

The colour appealed to me, however, and I married it with some skeins of a deeper warm blue and creamy white merino, and several hours later had finished my traditional shell-pattern blanket. The colours remind me of the sea, and a second similar blanket is currently in progress; they may end up in our little house in Brittany if I ever manage to get there again.

IMG_1373I also teamed a skein of the grey-blue with some rusty red wool – this, too, inherited from DD (yes, she is extremely generous) – and made a granny shawl that developed into an interesting shape. Deliberate, of course. And though it resembles a ray it doesn’t have eyes on its underside.

That more or less exhausted my little stash apart from the linen yarn so I knew the moment of truth had come, and it was time to move onto something serious.

Browsing the Internet, I found a free pattern on Ravelry for a lacy chevron cardigan that looked suitable for my linen yarn. The jacket was all in one piece, crocheted from the neck down. Would I be able to follow the pattern? I was, and I did. Hurrah! (Thank you, Miloba.)

Instructions said to stop when the body and sleeves are the length you like, so I kept on with the body till it was just past my bottom and ended the sleeves just above the elbow. Then I blocked it, and it gained several inches so the sleeves are now just below the elbow and the jacket descends to my knees – but who’s to know that isn’t deliberate? It’s better than having it shrink. IMG_1379

On trying it on, I also realised that I had made several mistakes in the first few rows around the neck. How do you rectify that without unravelling the whole thing? Luckily, I still had two skeins left, so I made a new chain and followed the pattern absolutely precisely with no mistakes until I had several rows of chevron crochet that looked the way it was supposed to. Joined to the neckline of my jacket with a few rows of single and double crochet, it forms a frilly collar that covers the multitude of original sins. Well, I like it. IMG_0262

I had the foresight to make buttonholes down the right-hand front band of the cardigan just in case it needs buttons, which it probably doesn’t, but if I find some really attractive ones I may add them. Is this garment a success? I shall wear it anyway, since it cost me both time and money, and convince myself it doesn’t look too amateurish and typical granny handiwork. Please don’t dash my illusions: I’ve worked all the loose ends in so they are completely invisible, and I’ll never find them again. It would be very wearying to have to unravel it all.

The wool for the blankets is Drops Karisma, with Schachenmayr Merino Extrafine 120
The linen yarn is Lang Lino.
And the cardigan pattern is at https://milobo.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/chevron-lace-cardigan-v4.pdf