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Archive for the ‘Linguistics’ Category

Österreichisch

I finally think I’m beginning to get to grips with this strange version of German called Austrian, and then I meet another dog owner in the dog park who proceeds to talk at me non-stop for a good 45 minutes. And I can honestly say I only got about half of what he was saying. That means: I missed half of it. I simply don’t understand the noises that come out between the words. They COULD carry meaning. I don’t know.

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I have three articles hanging over me for translation from Norwegian to English and I keep running out of time. Thomas and I — with the additional help of Thomas’ sons Brian and Pascal — finally repainted the living room (which looks fan-bloody-tastic), but there is still a lot I would like to do here and I keep running out of time. And the whole thing of running out of time has become a constant theme in my life.

At work my cup of work runneth over all the time. I have lots of little niggly things to do that all need to be done yesterday and then there are deadlines to meet, and they just have to be met, and then I need to walk Mischa, get a dress fitted, ride my bike in readiness for a long bike trip to Germany in May, do my tax returns for some European country (I’m getting confused here — where do I tax to and why?), eat — oh my NED I haven’t eaten today! — remove the forest on my legs, groom Mischa, do the dishes, learn German, shave my armpits (ok, that’s a lesser problem), shop! the fridge is empty again! apart from that cheese which has turned into a little colony of weirdly squeaking little beings of some kind and have to be hosed out, and then there was that thing about clean clothes and a wash basket full of anything but clean clothes.

Today I had an appointment with Humpty Dumpty who gave me the all clear after the operation — I am fit as a fiddle, as normal as women can be when they’re essentially nuts — and can go ahead and have a baby if I want. Right.

And after that Thomas and I headed out to Wiener Tierschutzverein (the animal protection league) to meet Orion. A dog Thomas found on their list of dogs up for adoption last year but was too late to get. Orion was, however, returned by his new owner and the time had come for Thomas to meet him. And since any addition to Thomas’ life also has to get on with me and Mischa, I had to see him too.

Orion is 9 years old, like Mischa, but that is more or less where comparisons have to end. We were taken by the dog handler to a separate area where he could be off the lead and there he ran around like a giraffe on speed, ecstatic to be out of his pen. We ignored him as much as he ignored us at first and talked to the handler about him. Got some background, a description of his personality, a little information about his return to the dog-home — and then we convinced her to take his muzzle off so he could play properly. And before long he brought the toy back to Thomas to throw instead of to the handler. Small victory number one. Then he suddenly ran to me with the toy. Small victory number two. And he kept running to me, probably because Thomas was still busy getting background and I was paying more attention. And then I motioned for him to bring the toy to Thomas instead which he immediately did. So for a dog that’s been institutionalised for a long time I’d say he did really well.

When we got back, Mischa suddenly looked like a small, fat dog… Orion was a good 15-20 cm taller than Mischa, and slim! and moved as if on springs. Very elegant. Alsation mix with “Windhund” — a Greyhound-type dog. But not the cuddly type like Mischa. We’re hoping that opposites attract and that the two will get on when they meet. And we hope Orion will decide that he wants to be with us. Because it is his decision. Not ours. It is important that he feels safe with us so we can work through whatever problems he might have and provide a good home for him to spend his twilight years.

That said, Mischa needs a groom and a bath (yes Mischa, you heard me — a bath!) because we are going to a confirmation on Saturday and right now he’s somewhat mucky and smelly. And of course it’s spring so he moults a lot. Ok, world’s oldest puppy! Groom time!

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For days now I have been laughing at the story about Elaine Carmody from Cardiff who was banned from wearing her pyjamas when shopping at Tesco. And it’s not just because she went on public radio and loudly, in an English totally void of any knowledge of grammar, broadcast that she is a slob who sits around in her pyjamas all day while chain-smoking — probably in front of her asthmatic toddlers. But also because the way she expresses herself is a wonderful linguistic study. I’ve often regretted that I did not study variations on British accents while at uni. Elaine Carmody has made it all up to me and given me a good, hearty laugh in the process.

I hope universities around the world add this sound-bite to their British accents and dialects courses. It’s miles better than being taught RP by a prudent English virgin who has you repeating sentences such as “It’s a jolly nice raincoat you have there, John!” while expecting you to take it seriously.

Here’s a picture of the elegant lady, in her very best pyjamas so as to appear tidy, like. 🙂

It turns out she is not the first and probably won’t be the last to wear inappropriate supermarket-wear:

Pyjama-wearing ban spread from Cardiff to Shanghai

Tesco bans shopping for bananas in pyjamas… or bare feet

**

And thanks to Sarah for this:

China’s pyjamas police fight Shanghai’s daytime love of nightwear

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Dawg

Shouted from across the road:

“Do ya want another dawg?”

“Pardon?”

“Do ya want another dawg? That one is not very good at cleaning and tidying and stuff. I’m good at that. I’ll be yo dawg.”

“Ah. No. Thank you. I have enough — ‘dawgs’ — already, thanks…”

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The holiday in Norway

I’ve lived in the 15th district since February, and though the district itself leaves a little to be desired I absolutely love living here. Mainly because of Louise and the flat and, well, Mischa, of course. I just had to mention the obvious there, right?

When I went to Norway in July, Mischa went to stay with his old family which was back home on holiday. By placing Mischa with them when I go away myself he sees that the connection to all that was is still there. But even they discovered that Mischa has made his own choice, and towards the end of my holiday I got the message from Livia that Mischa was depressed and when would I come pick him up, again? So the same day we returned I went there. As I entered the Hof (an Austrian backyard surrounded by buildings) they let only Mischa out to meet me. It was the quietest of reunions, as if he wanted to demonstrate his depression: he walked towards me with a slowly wagging tail, then leant against me and just stood there. “Don’t leave me again.” Of course, I have no idea if that is what he was thinking. Perhaps he just recognised me as peace and quiet after three weeks with Knickers and four kids.

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Me in the train cell. Keep in mind that I am 152 cm only. (Photo: Thomas Schluet)

Our holiday went to Norway via Hamburg and Copenhagen. Hamburg didn’t really count; we didn’t stop to take in its beauty, not even of Reperbahn. We took the train with our bikes from Vienna. We had a sleeper for two, and it’s the most insanely small space I’ve ever been in with two beds (?), seats (when not beds), table-cum-sink and freely improvised storage space.

Table w. sink. For your inconvenience.

Table w. sink. For our inconvenience.

As we could not leave the luggage on the bikes the way the car drivers could, we were not just cramped by our own presence, but also by a load of motorbike cases. And just to help the situation, the night train to Hamburg did not (does not) have a restaurant car where we could enjoy a beer while waiting for bedtime. Which was never 8pm for me. Also (I’ll get past this soon, I’m sure) the AC system on the trains require that all windows stay firmly shut with the result that you get boiled alive while being denied the relief of an open window. Please bring back the old-fashioned trains with no AC but windows that can be opened! Admittedly not as bad as being transported per cattle train to Treblinka. I did not just draw that comparison. You are imagining things.

I did observe an elderly couple who’d clearly done this before and knew how to enjoy themselves. Within minutes of leaving the station the wife was standing in the narrow corridor swigging glass after glass of wine while enjoying the landscape. We only discovered how expensive the wine was (which had to be ordered from an overworked stewardess) once we were captive on the train. A mistake we only made once.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

Lene gave us the master bedroom while we were there. We noticed that the painting in our room was missing an essential part. Insects.

That aside, I was nervous about the long ride, but it all proved a doddle, as Colin says, and we arrived in Copenhagen at a lovely house my cousin Lene and her former partner Ray were looking after. The house came with a garden, barbecue and a dog which did all the usual doggie stuff: begged for food, jumped on the bed, and humped me.

Things to do in Copenhagen: walk down Strøget, eat giant ice cream cone, visit Tivoli. We had to visit Magasin and Nyhavn on the return journey as we simply ran out of time. The last time I was in Denmark was for my grandmother’s funeral. This is the last picture ever taken of her. She was 94 and had no idea who I was:

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

My grandmother from Odense, H.C. Andersen's city.

It’s also been years since I saw Lene. She speaks this amazing semi-cockney English with a slight Danish accent, and Ray who is English has also developed an accent and chucks the odd Danish word into his sentences. Lene has lived in England, and she has also spent a considerable amount of time in Israel where she worked in a kibbutz. I had forgotten just how much fun she is and spent a lot of time laughing. Ray said that listening to us talking Danish/Norwegian together was like listening to two people singing to each other.

The drive through Skåne in Sweden was tiring. The landscape is flat and offers no protection from the wind. No problem for Thomas who rode a big sturdy bike, but for me on my little Ninja it turned into a bit of a battle to stay on the road.

Ine (waking up with a start): "What was that??" Dad: "Det var en elg." [that was a moose] Ine: "Fucking hell! Stop the car!" Dad (peering out through a hole in the windscreen): "Nono, this is fine, I'll take her straight to the SAAB garage in Halden."

Saab after sudden meeting with moose

My last memories of driving through Sweden was with my parents on the way back from visiting grandma for the last time. I had been the driver most of the day so when dad took over I promptly fell asleep. I woke with a start when a moose jumped out of a ditch and hit the car. The moose lost and had to be put down, but the car was a little mangled. Of course, the Swedish police could not contain themselves and had to crack jokes about Norwegians going moose hunting in Sweden, and then they gloated that it was a good thing we drove a Swedish car or we would have been killed like the poor family of four who’d driven the same stretch the previous week in a VW Golf. Such consolation at a time like that.

No mice this time. Don’t think we would have fared equally well with our bikes.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

Kaisa and Thomas staring out across the lake Fisjeløysa (Fishless) in the rain.

First few days were spent with Hanne (my sister) and her family at their mountain cabin. My vain hopes for good weather failed miserably, but we did manage to drag ourselves out for a wet walk and scare poor little Kaisa when we meet some horses that wanted to say hello to her. Stig (brother-in-law) did his impersonation of a true Norwegian to perfection and served a mish-mash of alcoholic beverages that he pressed upon a pressable Thomas. It was this thing of opening a new bottle of high-octane booze and throwing away the cork that did it. It’s a Norwegian thing. It also impressed Kevin when first confronted with this. We’d given Stig a bottle of Jamiesson whisky which was emptied the same evening. Cork gone, no choice. We lived to regret it.

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

Dad and Thomas painting. And painting. And -- you get the picture?

From then on we did even less. Well, we painted my cabin. Which is now a much bigger cabin. It was really strange; the tiny little cabin was still there with the “outline” of the new exterior walls around it, not yet filled in with floors and walls and in short the rooms that are going to be there. It’s my favourite place in the whole world and I have every intention of retiring there. Even if it means getting some sort of chair-lift installed to get my arthritic bones up the rocks to get to it. I am trying hard to forget what winter and snow will do and how I am likely to freeze to death and be found many months later when my corpse thaws out and starts to smell. OK, so the anti-depressants are only working so well. Fine! Get off my case!

We managed a couple of trips to civilisation as well — Oslo. That is not to say that my parents don’t live in a civilised place, I’d be far from making that claim! But… I lived there for all of six months before I gave up. In the course of that time I experienced the unpleasantness of taking the last train there from Oslo with a drunken middle aged man with some bizarre inferiority complex. He spent the trip shouting abuse at me eloquently spiced up with a string of less flattering names until a Real Life Hero, a young man doing his army service, had enough of listening to it, picked the man up bodily from his seat, carried him out to the exit and said very, very quietly while dangling him in mid-air “you are now getting off the train”. Once done with the task he returned to his seat, nodded unceremoniously and resumed reading his book.

Sadly, there were not always knights in uniforms around to do gallant deeds.

Another thing that had me somewhat miffed was when the local paper claimed me as “theirs” in an interview when I directed the local review. Six months was all it took. And by then I didn’t even live there any more. I guess they were desperate for fresh blood to end the frequency of large ears and crooked noses.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Meeting old classmates from AGES ago. Not telling. Am feeling old and tired.

Oslo was as always lovely, though. And meeting people I had not seen in over hrmff years — some of the guys I went to primary and secondary school with — was just amazing. Including my first kiss… another Thomas. Ahh, the memories!

Anyway. It was a memorable holiday for so many reasons, not least because it was without Kevin and with Thomas instead. But that is something I will come back to at a much later stage. Because it’s —- complicated.

We remembered to get wine before getting on the train in Hamburg, and while we waited to board the train we had the best beer I’ve ever, ever, ever tasted. And experience had shown us how to bend and squeeze ourselves into the cell and even get a little sleep. In the heat which was just as unbearable as the first time.

Now, as I write these last few sentences, I should really be in bed instead. I am supposed to get up in about four hours to get ready to go to the airport. We’re having a board meeting in Romania and I’ve been looking forward to going there for months now. But I can’t sleep. And the only reason I can’t sleep is because the plane leaves at 7.15 in the morning and there’s sort of no point in even going to bed when it’s like that. So here I sit. Sleepless in Vienna. Waiting for the hell of a much too early morning and what is likely to be a much too long day. Before a back-to-back board meeting in a country I have been wanting to visit for the longest time.

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And you thought IKEA was bad

A while ago I fell in love with this chest of drawers. It was called an “Apotekerschrank” and had lots of drawers. But I kept putting off ordering it for various reason. Such as being short of money and stuff like that. You know, the usual.

Eventually they — Dänisches Bettenlager — dropped the price and I thought, what the h***, might as well go for it. I was convinced it was a great idea, that when I paid €35 to have it delivered it would be carried to wherever I wanted it and voilà, there it would be, the perfect chest of drawers in the perfect spot, ready to be filled with my imperfect clothes.

Ah — no.

Tuesday morning there was a ring on my door and a guy shoved a piece of paper in my face with my name on it, asked if that was me and on confirmation disappeared down the stairs. Not to reappear. So eventually I trotted down to see what had become of him and found a hydraulic trolley with a pallet and two large parcels on it  right outside the front door, but still with no sign of the man with the van.

After a couple of minutes’ dejected and confused waiting I eventually spotted him walking leisurely towards me from a long distance, and on finally reaching me he told me there was no loading bay anywhere near and he’d had to go to the North Pole or something. Then he started to unload the trolley, pallet and all, right there on the pavement.

“??” I said.
“I only have to deliver to the address”, he said. “This is the address, I deliver.”
“I have paid a small fortune for delivery — do you expect me to carry that myself? It weighs more than me! And what do I want a pallet for??”
He shrugged and repeated the previous, pulled out a piece of paper and said “That’s me”, pointing to his name on the paper — “me, the driver.” Then he pointed to the number above the door and said “Address. I deliver.”

I could see no way around it. I had to resort to crazy-woman-with-nothing-better-to-do so I screamed at the poor man that this was madness, that I could not be expected to cart 70 kg worth of boxes, plus a pallet I didn’t need, up two flights of stairs, that this was no service at all.

He offered to do it for me if I paid extra.

I resorted to even-crazier-woman until he shouted “what do you want? Do you want me to take it back?!”

I said yes. Actually, I yelled YES!!! with at least three exclamation marks. And stalked off in my very best stalk.

And that’s the point when crazy-woman paid off and driver buckled, ’cause driver was not allowed to return with the goods if customer was indeed there and I KNEW HIS NAME. So the end of the delivery was that I did not have to accept the pallet and that we carried the parcels up together.

But I did not tip because crazy-woman is very mean that way. Hm, come to think of it, my German has never been better than it was then…

So, there I was, with two heavy parcels of Royal Oak Apotekerschrank from Dänisches Bettenlager. And my brain short-circuited at the thought of putting it all together. When I looked at the drawings I saw nothing but a mess so I left the parcels in the spare room with all of Max’ things and fell asleep. Falling asleep is generally what I do these days when my brain overloads. Except at night when I should sleep. It’s great. Works a treat at keeping me crazy.

When I later cried out my despair to Kevin he came over and sorted it all out with me as his assistant handing him screw-drivers and screws as he told me to. I’ve never seen him so calm. Usually it is me who assemble stuff quietly and patiently, only swearing occasionally, and Kevin who swears like a trooper and flies off his handle at irregular intervals. Talk about reversed roles. I actually like assembling things. It’s a little like complicated Lego. But this totally ruined several evenings and the mess on the floor had Mischa tip-toeing between screws and metal and wood parts for drawers. He’s quite good at that, even when walking backwards he is able to avoid stepping on things.

Right now he’s lying on the floor next to me with a look of “I’m a poor, starving, neglected puppy and nobody loves me” so I think I had better prove him wrong by taking him outside for a groom and then giving him a shampoo. That should make him feel loved.

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What a bugger of a year. And if you’re not a native English speaker; don’t look it up in the dictionary. I had a group of students do that. In my efforts to avoid swearing in front of my students I had landed on that very word as a mild expletive, not counting on their Germanic tendency to want to get everything right and that they all marched off to look the word up in Leo. The result was that I had twenty enjoyable minutes of young men trying to explain the true meaning to me while blushing.

I woke up this morning to a white world. No, not snow, but a thick carpet of frost on everything in sight. Outside. -12C, which is a mere spring day in Siberia, but as Siberia is bottom of my list over places I wish to visit that is neither here nor there. I feel the cold quickly and simply looking at all that white frost made all my body hair stand on end and pretty much stole my will to live. It was very pretty, though. And then my mother sneezed and scared all the world’s birds and broke the spell and my will to live was completely extinguished.

The year started with my tenants in Edinburgh informing me that they wanted to move out. We were friends until then. The friendship did not end because they wanted to move, after all, flushing money down the toilet on rent year after year is not what a normal person wants to do. But my pettier nature thinks that when you rent from a friend at a very reasonable, below average, rate, you should at least treat the place as if you cared. At least a little.

My job was still quite new and I got the chance to travel as one of its perks. I have seen more of Europe this year than in the past decade. Hamburg, Coimbra, Tallinn, Paris. In addition to the usual places; Oslo, Edinburgh, London, and Vienna where I live. I totally love this side to my job, and luckily I also love the job and think I have great colleagues (I even like Ms Phobia) and hope EU will continue to sponsor us so we all have a job to go to for the foreseeable future. And I really don’t mind my boss’ show of Swedish patriotism in displaying a rather frightening postcard of the Swedish royal offspring in the office. I can live with that. Really, I can. After all, they are more glamorous than the Norwegian royal offspring which is more of the oafish kind.

In between travelling we also found time to look after various pets belonging to friends; Mischa, Alex and Livia’s dog and my favourite among our charges; Amy, Graham’s Golden Retriever; Lucy, Adrienne’s black mongrel; and Snowy who belongs to Howard and Kaki. In addition came three rats gerbils hamsters belonging to Tom — he had asked us to look after one and turned up with three. Neither of us were able to relate to the rats gerbils hamsters, but the dogs all gave us lots of joy and at times some major worries such as when Amy threw herself into the smelliest pool of mud in all of Prater, Lucy barred Mischa from the bedroom (the only time we have had two dogs at the same time) and Snowy refused to eat for days and almost vanished. Until I discovered that pancakes were the key to his heart. If I can buy a dog’s affection with pancakes I will do so.

Half way through the year I was given the devastating message that I had myomas in my uterus and would have to have a full hysterectomy. According to the plumber who diagnosed me. Humpty-dumpty reversed the death-sentence and said reassuringly that the experts at the AKH (Allgemeine Krankenhaus) had an assembly line approach to myomas and could whip them out in no time. Which they did, and I met a woman who had been given the same sentence and who, as a South African, I could communicate with. Which we did. Over copious glasses of wine and amidst lots of laughter that hurt the operation wounds and the trapped air that for some inexplicable reason seems to be pumped into the body during an operation and how come they can’t give you a quick squeeze before closing you up? Just thought I’d ask. At least I learned how to spell gynaecology.

Louise has become one of my closest friends. And sometimes I wonder how I would have got through the past few months without her. Because not all has been well in the Kevin and Ine paradise since we moved to the 4th district, and while convalescing at home after the op I split up with the love of my life. That is the all-time-low of this year. Frustrations that had built over a long period came to a head with the operation, an operation which made me question my entire life and my dreams and hopes.

Suffice it to say that Louise has become invaluable as a friend. And when Alex and Livia gave me Mischa he too became an invaluable support with his silent gentleness and cuddly presence. And Thomas, whose instincts seem unusually tuned in to the state of my mind. His ability to grab me by the scruff of the neck and either shake or hug me before I completely succumb to self pity has several times been my saving grace.

Depression has still reared its ugly head and in November I did a “Britney” and cut my long hair short. The hairdresser had doubts about my sincerity — having doubts about my sanity would have been closer to the mark. But I have no regrets: someone who is depressed will try anything to shake the feeling, and that was just one attempt. There will be others. Such as when I get my new motorbike at the end of April. A clear sign of a mid-life crisis. If I’m going to have a crisis, I’m going to have one all the way.

Louise’s husband, Max, died in November. His prolonged illness is one of the things that has brought Louise and me closer together. Within an hour of meeting at the AKH we had told each other all the important things, and one thing she told me was about Max and how he had been in a coma for two-and-a-half years after a prophylactic shock from a wasp sting. Louise and I have emptied several bottles of wine together while laughing and crying over our miserable lives. I have a feeling we will continue to do this at regular intervals, and no, it was neither me finding a new flat or the flat finding me. It was Louise offering me the flat. We will soon be neighbours. And both be cuddling Mischa when we have bad days and need a complacent male. Poor boy; he has no idea what awaits him.

Splitting up has of course brought finances to the fore, and I can no longer afford to keep Cleo and complete her restoration. I had to go to London to hand over the rest of my money to Peter and make a few heartbreaking decisions, and while there I stayed with Colin who is dying from cancer. And isn’t this just about to turn into the most cheerful post you’ve ever read? Death and depression everywhere you look. Years don’t come much better than 2008 in that respect. But I did like Colin’s remark as I was on my way out to meet Richard, my depressed (…) fashion photographer friend. Colin looked me up and down, then he said: “You dress well. That should be in your epitaph. ‘She dressed well. All else was shit’.” I love my friends. They always know how to say the right thing and invariably make me feel better.

So now, on the eve of 2008, I sit in Ski, a place I never learned to love, or even particularly like, contemplating my life. It’s pitch black out, I can hear the odd pop of fire crackers, the news is on TV about the storm “Yngve” causing havoc to a small community up north. And about Israel bombing the Gaza strip to smithereens in revenge at Hamas firing rockets into Israel. So samme bloody procedure there as every year, then.

I wish me a vastly improved 2009. And if you need one too: Happy 2009! May things be nothing like 2008.

Eidsvoll, 20 December 2008. Norway as I know and sometimes didn't love it at all. But in general I'd say it's a pretty country. In the summer. When it's a bit lighter. Ok, I'll stop now. You get the picture. I suffer from SAD -- something to do with light deprivation. There's a lot of it here. Ask someone who knows and is feeling sorry for herself.

Eidsvoll, 20 December 2008. Norway as I know and sometimes didn't love it at all. But in general I'd say it's a pretty country. In the summer. When it's a bit lighter. Ok, I'll stop now. You get the picture. I suffer from SAD -- Seasonal affective disorder. There's a lot of it here. Ask someone who knows and is feeling sorry for herself.

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