Sunday, 31 October 2010

53. Cyber studies, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Man (61):  …I just don’t know – he studies on his computer all day… in the end one doesn’t really know what he’s studying or what work has been set for him by the teacher…

(Gustavo’s comment:  what he’s studying on his computer all day is Facebook I & II, Introduction to Twitter, and a masters in MSN…)

(Loosely translated from Gustavo’s blog, Blogudeces de la Vida Cotidiana – with thanks)


Saturday, 30 October 2010

52. In the Office, Bristol

Conversation about a temp

Admin worker (female, late teens): 
That were poor work she did, couldn’t care less.  All lapsy-daisy.


Friday, 29 October 2010

51. Word Wobble (5). Bristol, 1960’s

Scene:  Child being coached in biblical quote from Genesis 3.11: “Who told thee that thou wast nakéd?”

Little girl (5) (proudly reciting to her parents):  Who told thee that thou wast knackered?

(With thanks to Eric)


Thursday, 28 October 2010

50. Word Wobble (4). Bristol. Patient Conversation

Man (70):  ‘E were a wrong ‘un, a drug haddock, that one.

(With thanks to Sarah)


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

49. Word Wobble (3). Patient Conversation

At a weekly clinic for urology catheter patients, Bristol

First time patient (male, 75) (whispering to nurse):
You see, I’ve had a caffetière inserted…

(With thanks to Sarah)


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

48. Word Wobble (2). After school, on the road between Bristol and Bath

Mother (20’s):  … so … what happened at school today?

Son (5): (Pleased that he’s learned a new word)  In assembly the headmaster read to us from the Old Testicle.

(With thanks to Mum Sarah)


Monday, 25 October 2010

47. Word Wobble (1). In a car, Bristol

Scene:  Sarah, a work colleague of mine, is driving her son, her niece and niece’s friend to nursery school, after which one of them is going to a crèche.  The girls are talking to each other in the back of the car.

Friend (female, 3.5 years):  (showing off)  After nursery school this afternoon I’m going to a quiche.

Niece (4.5 years) :  Don’t be silly, it’s not called a quiche, it’s called a crate.

(With thanks to driver Sarah)


Sunday, 24 October 2010

46. The Facts of Birth. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2010

Scene:  Blogger Gustavo’s wife has just given birth to their third child, a boy they have named Joaquín.  Their first son aged 7 is still trying to figure it all out.

Son (7):  So where did he come out from, was it Mummy’s back bottom?

(Gustavo’s comment:  From cabbages and storks to back bottoms… it looks as though the new generation is getting nearer to the truth)

Son (7):  And this bag Joaquín was in, was it like those you get at Carrefour?

(Gustavo’s comment:  No, no, kid, it was like the recycling ones, biodegradable…)

(Loosely translated from Gustavo’s blog, Blogudeces de la Vida Cotidiana – with thanks)


Saturday, 23 October 2010

45. Sleep, baby, sleep (2), getting off a plane at Bristol airport, newly arrived from New York.

Scene:  The overnight flight was punctuated by the screams and general anguish of a baby who never settled.  The parents did their best, and were acutely aware of the couple in the same row further along from them, whose baby slept through the night without a peep being heard from him.  The two families met up at baggage reclaim.

Mother of noisy baby (21), English:  I’m sorry everyone’s had a rough night thanks to us – we didn’t know what to do to keep him quiet.  Yours was soooo good!  How on earth did you do it?

Father of quiet baby (28), US American:  Drugs

(Inadvertent gasp from parents of noisy baby plus several eavesdropping bystanders round the carousel)

Mother of noisy baby (trying not to sound shocked):  Really?

Mother of quiet baby (28), English:  He means we gave him a teaspoonful of cough mixture after dinner.

Father of quiet baby, US American:  Yeah.  Drugs.

(With thanks to eavesdropper Brian)


Friday, 22 October 2010

44. Sleep, baby, sleep (1). At a restaurant, Bristol

Scene:  Various couples dining together who met at antenatal class, and having all had their first babies recently, are enjoying a rare night out.  The discussion centres around how to ensure that the young breast-fed babies sleep through the night as far as possible.

Mother 1 (26):  We’ve tried soothing music, lullabyes, giving him more at the midnight feed so he’ll sleep through the night… everything.  Nothing works, and we’re both knackered…

Mother 2 (28), note of smugness in voice:  The secret with night feeds is not to switch any lights on, speak or move around much before or after breastfeeding – that way the baby doesn’t wake up altogether.  Works for me.

Mother 3 (34 and wordlywise):  We don’t seem to have any problems – I breastfeed her at midnight and she goes right through to 7.30.

(Gasps of envy)

Father 1 (27):  At two months?  Through till 7.30?  Oh we're so envious (aren’t we darling?) 

Mother 3:  Well, it’s not without a little help…

Father 2 (28):  Aaaah, now we’re getting somewhere – so what do you give her?

Mother 3:  Not her, me.  Two large brandies.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

43. Sainsburys supermarket on a very busy evening in an area popular with students, Clifton, Bristol

Nick, (44) seeing a face he recognises:  Hi there!  Remember me?

Shopper  (female, 44):  (looking blank – and nervous)

Nick:   (Lowering his voice):  You know, the 1980’s theme party a month ago...

Shopper:  (In her relief, not realising she’s now shouting and attracting the attention of a large number of onlookers) Oh yes...OH YES!!  OH MY GOD!! I DIDN’T RECOGNISE YOU WITHOUT YOUR MAKEUP ON!!!

Nick at the fancy dress party

(With thanks to Nick for the story and the picture)


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

42. Guildford, Surrey, UK, summer 1973

Explanatory note - dulce de leche:  Toffee with the consistency of caramel, the lazy recipe for which is to boil an unopened tin of condensed milk in water for two hours.

Niece newly arrived from Argentina (20):  We were watching Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game

(Reason given for ignoring the muffled sound of an explosion coming from the kitchen, where earlier she had been showing off to her young cousins how easy it was to make dulce de leche.  All you had to do was boil the unopened tin of condensed milk for a couple of hours, however not forgetting to add water to the pan every so often.  The Generation Game had wiped from her brain this last portion of the recipe.)

Niece… (20), nervously to cousins:  So…er... what time is your mother expected home?

(Said immediately upon noticing that there was condensed milk splattered on every square inch of surface in the kitchen, from waist level up to and including the ceiling, and that the original saucepan was now oval.)

PS:  Upon her return, the aunt in question was half way between speechless and amused rather than angry, to her niece’s everlasting gratitude.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

41. Corporate Capers (IV), Exeter airport, preparing to exit plane just landed from Paris, June 2010

Jeremy, Retired Company Chairman (he of posts 22 & 23, now older and supposedly “wiser”) (75):  This coat feels a bit tight…

(Said as he and colleagues gathered up their belongings from the overhead lockers on their return from a jolly in France, immediately prior to the dawning realisation that in his haste he had picked up the wrong coat.  His own coat had been left in the boot of the hired car at Charles de Gaulle airport together with the suitcase belonging to the acting Company Chairman, who was catching a later plane in a different direction and had dropped them off prior to returning the hired car.)

Jeremy…. (75):  Oh well, never mind, I’ll send it on to him.

(Said immediately prior to checking the pockets and realising that they contained the acting Chairman’s following belongings:  (1) Passport; (2) Airline tickets; (3) Euros; (4) Sterling; (5) All credit cards.)

(Discreet collective sigh of relief from the rest, who had jobs to lose.)


Monday, 18 October 2010

40. Out of the mouths of babes...(1). Teddington, Middlesex, UK, circa 1950

Background:  After one successful fundraising occasion, the vicar was given to asking one of his parishioners to press local businesses for donations to the church, much to said parishioner’s considerable (and private) annoyance.

Doorbell rings, door is opened by 5 year old, his parents close behind him.

Michael, the Vicar (40), stooping and smiling:  Hello young man, is your father at home?

“Young man” (5) in crystal clear treble voice:  My Daddy says damn, my Daddy says blast, my Daddy says why the hell can’t Michael do his own dirty work…


Sunday, 17 October 2010

39. From “Baby’s first Yearbook”, 1953-54, completed by my mother

I was baptized on:  25th October 1953

Church:  Holy Trinity Church, Temperley, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Details of Ceremony:  Cried a good deal and the moment last amen was said, brought up a big wind that echoed through the church.

(Thanks Mum…)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

38. Boarding School (II), Saladillo, Argentina, 1959

“Good” First Report card dated 29th November 1959.  Pupil’s age = 6
(Entries are exactly as spelled on the report)

Geography.  Year average = 92%. Position in class = 1st:  She has made a good attempt to keep her book tidy and has memorized her work marvellously.

Reading.  Year average = 100%.  Position in class = 1st:  Very good indeed.  Neads (sic…) a little more expression.

Spelling.  Year average = 92%.  Position in class = 1st:  A little careless about studing (sic…) her words, otherwise an excellent speller.

Dancing.  Year average & Position in class not given:  Caroline will be a good little dancer when she ceases to be vague!

Needlework.  Year average & Position in class not given:  She is very slow but a careful worker.

Arithmetic.  Year average = 20%.  Position in class = bottom:  Good enough for her age.

General Remarks:  For one so young Caroline has done very well in her first year of boarding school.  She is still rather belligerent with her companions but is gradually adapting herself to community life.

(So much for thinking I was timid…)

Friday, 15 October 2010

37. Boarding School (I), Saladillo, Argentina, early 1960’s

This is at a small rural school, inexpertly run by an English couple who grouped classes together in one room due to lack of space, sitting them at different tables – or perhaps due to shortage of staff, since the headmaster taught history to the whole school of 36 pupils of differing ages and abilities.  The younger ones such as myself had no idea what was going on, but were too timid to say so.

History Examination paper, end of year. 

Question 1:  Who were the Tuscans?

Pupil (female, 7):  They were a type of elephant.

Question 2:  Why did the Tuscans lay siege to Rome?

Pupil:  (Gazing at blank page for a long time wondering how you laid a siege, before deciding to write what seemed the most obvious answer)
Because they wanted to.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

36. Office, Bristol, late 1980’s

Office worker 1, female (18):  My boyfriend went out with his mates Saturday, they got really p*ssed... had to walk home.  Took them ages, cos they got lost.  And he fell over...

Office worker 2, female (22):  What happened?  Was he alright?

Office worker 1:  Yeh.  He said the world were all tipsy turvy.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

35. Outside a primary school, Bristol, 2010

Children milling about everywhere, a lot of (normal) screaming and shouting going on.

Harassed mother 1 (30), shouting to be heard above the din:  Apparently I’ve got to take him (8 year old son) to Weston-super-Mare to get the uniform, at that precinct where you can never find a place to park...

Harassed mother 2 (31), shouting back:  Weston-super-Nightmare, you mean.

(With thanks to Nick, who overheard this recently.)


Monday, 11 October 2010

34. At dinner table, early 90’s

Guest (male, 50ish):  .... who was it who said “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs...”

Hostess (female, 45):  Karl Marx I think?

Daughter of the house (13):  Yes, he was the one who also said “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member".


Sunday, 10 October 2010

33. At a Comprehensive School (iii), Frimley, Surrey, UK, 1973

In the staff room

Well-spoken senior teacher who fancies her sense of humour (40):  I know you’re from Argentina, but I’ve heard you talk about “B.A.”, what does that stand for?

Spanish Assistant (female, 21):  Buenos Aires, the capital.

Well spoken senior teacher (to others in staff room):  Oh I say, that’s too priceless, it sounds like “B.O.” *  (Puts on a nasal whine) “Hello everybody, I’m from Beeee.Oooooo.!”  (guffaws)

*B.O.:  In the UK, acronym for Body Odour


Saturday, 9 October 2010

32. At a Comprehensive School (ii), Frimley, Surrey, UK, 1973

Teacher (female, 30ish):  I hear you’re from Buenos Aires.  I’ve got English relatives living in Colombia, their family name is (****) – I don’t suppose you know them?

Spanish Assistant (female, 21):  Nnnnnooo, it doesn’t ring a bell...


Friday, 8 October 2010

31. At a Comprehensive School (i), Frimley, Surrey, UK, 1973

Sixth Former who has been studying Spanish for a year (female, 17):  You’ve got a funny accent Miss, where do you come from?

Spanish Assistant (female, 21):  I’m from Argentina.

Sixth Former:  Argentina?  Wow, whereabouts in Spain is that?


Thursday, 7 October 2010

30. Theatre, Bristol, at the premiere Opening Night of an opera

Theatre-goer, a very senior clinician in a hospital, female (60):  I like coming to these sorts of productions, it’s a fun evening out, don’t you think?  I don’t see the point in buying a programme though – after all you can pick it up as you go along, as long as they don’t sing too high.  I don’t see the point in spending – what is it, £3? – when you can pick it all up yourself.  Better to spend it on a drink, don’t you think?

Friend (40):  Ooh yes, absolutely, I haven’t bought one either.

Theatre-goer (leaning across friend to speak to acquaintance the other side at various times during the performance)
Excuse me, could you tell me how many acts there are?  ...........Is there one interval, or two?  .........How long is the second one? ...........What time does it finish? ............ I hear the Musical Director’s daughter is in the production – which one is she?........ I didn’t quite follow that last bit, can I borrow your programme to check it out in the synopsis?........

Later in the evening the auditorium got too warm and people were fanning themselves with their programmes.  Said theatre goer was seen flapping her hand in front of her face in an attempt to fan it.  The programme lender/acquaintance wishes she had thought to offer to sell her a fan for £3.00...


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

29. Office, somewhere in Canada

Boss:  .... so I want to know why you missed the meeting?

Worker (spreading his hands):  If I hadda known I woulda went!

(With many thanks to Fenella Rook)


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

28. World’s Greatest Lover (2), at a bus stop, midnight, Bristol City Centre

Jack-the-Lad (24):  I’ve told the boss, I said I’m having next week off.  I’ve just got to detox.

Drinking buddy (24):  So what are you going to do on this week off?

Jack-the-Lad:  Detox, mate.  Chill out, go down the gym...

Drinking buddy:  ...give up the fags, the booze and the birds?

Jack-the-Lad:  No, I enjoys me fags.  And a lad’s got to have a drink, innee?

Drinking buddy: the birds then......

Jack-the-Lad (patiently):  No mate, that’s the point, I ain’t had any of them in months, got to detox.


Monday, 4 October 2010

27. World’s Greatest Lover (1), at a pub, Bristol City Centre

Jack-the-Lad (21), over a pint of beer:  This short blonde bird comes up to me and says hello and I’m like “Who’s she?”  And it turns out we had a good time on New Year’s Eve after the others went home... 

Drinking buddy (24):  You shocker!  Gordon Bennett!*  You couldn’t remember her?

Jack-the-Lad:  Well, sort of… but I was, like, blank.  She goes “Don’t you remember me?”  and I goes “Yeah, I remember how freezing it was in that lounge...”

Drinking buddy:  Couldn’t you even remember that she was a blonde?

Jack-the-Lad:  You don’t look at the mantelpiece while you’re poking the fire, know what I mean?

*Expression of surprise used in Bristol and other places...


Sunday, 3 October 2010

26. Listen with Grandmother (iii). Belgrano suburb, Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1971


Grandaughter to her Spanish speaking boyfriend (19):  What on earth did you say to Granny that she’s so offended with you?  She’s sitting there doing her knitting, tight-lipped, refusing to say anything and looking disapproving about something…

Spanish speaking boyfriend, keen to learn English but possibly still needing help with his pronunciation (20):  I have no idea.  She offered me one of her special English Callard & Bowser mint humbugs, and I thought it polite to suggest she join me in one too, and I just said “You must have one - Gracias”.


Saturday, 2 October 2010

25. Listen with Grandmother (ii). Olivos suburb, Buenos Aires, late 1970’s

Scrabble Trouble


Towards the end of a Scrabble game between my mother and grandmother.  My father (her son) was reading a newspaper in the background.  Granny was a gentle but very straitlaced old lady, and did not like to hear even mild expletives.   “Well I never!” was the most vehement of her ripostes.  She was also very competitive at scrabble – she only had to be within sniffing distance of a triple word score and she would sit there till she found a way to use it.  On this occasion she had only three letters left to place somewhere on the board, which would enable her to win the game.

Granny, musing out loud (90):  I’ve got a U, a C and a K....  oh dear dear, where will I fit those in.... let me see, what words...?   Mmmmmmmm.... MUCK is a word.... no, there’s no free M anywhere... RUCK... is ruck a word?  (Yes Mother).   Mmmmm, can’t see any R’s on the board....  BUCK?... DUCK?.... LUCK?..... TUCK?..... noooooo.  Ah – an F….FUCK!  Is that a word?  (silence)  I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere before.  (Pensively) FUCK...FUCK.... what does it mean?  

(Strangled choking sounds from behind the shaking newspaper)

Granny:  What’s the matter?  What have I said?


Friday, 1 October 2010

24. Listen with Grandmother (i) Belgrano suburb, Buenos Aires

On being a widow

Granny (90), knitting, in reflective mood:  ... and there’s been no one to scratch my back anymore since my husband died.  (Clicks her tongue) I’ve got to use a knitting needle.

Visiting distant cousin (78):  Mmmm...I know what you mean, I use a ruler.