Category Archives: Life

Message for Surfing

Thanks for your kind comment, Surfing. I’m flattered you’ve missed my witterings.

I deliberately turned off the comments section as I have over 2,000 spam comments that have accumulated during  my absence. I would turn comments off on the “About” page as well, if I could work out how!

You’ll be pleased to know that my geeky friend sorted out my translation software (we think – the real test will come tomorrow morning!) and somehow I’ve just sorted out my access to this blog. I don’t know what I was doing previously – or what I did 5 minutes ago to find myself here! I shall have to hope that I manage to do it again when necessary.

Assuming that I do remember (although in my case one should assume nothing where technology is concerned), I hope to be back again soon.

Almost a year

It’s been almost a year since I last posted. Quite unbelievable!

I am still here – in some shape or form.

I think my main reason for not posting is that I have been struggling with technology. At the beginning of last April I bought a shiny new computer… and some shiny new translation software. It has made me tear my hair out. None more so than today.

I have been reduced to going back to my old computer (from where I am writing right now) to use the old version of the software. My customer says he can’t read it. I am in despair. This wretched software cost a few limbs and claims to save the busy translator time and money. Neither claim is true. I have lost literally hours and HOURS of time trying to sort out its bugs and wobbles, thus costing me time and money!! ARGH

I am expecting the client to thank me politely and take back the promised job (the fee for which for once would actually pay the  bills).

The other strand of technology woe is that I don’t seem to be able to get on to this blog from my new computer – which as you can imagine – is a bit of a drawback where blogging is concerned. I haven’t had the time or inclination to fight with technology in my “spare” time as well as in my work time (although my spare time has become my work time because I’ve needed to catch up on lost time… if you follow me).

A geeky friend is coming to stay tonight. If I am not in some soggy mass of tears by then, I may have the strength to ask him to help me. I’m sure he’ll manage the blog thing. The translation software could be a different matter.

So, hope all is well with y’all, gentle readers. I’m sure you’ve all found other ways to spend your time than read this rant… but if you have read it… believe me, it is remarkably measured considering how wound up and *&$£!!** frustrated I feel!

One of Facebook’s dangers

So there I was, late in the evening, getting more and more bored with translating some ole press release about something or other which was really not very newsworthy…. Trying to dredge up some words that would make some dull takeover sound a bit more exciting….and allowed myself to be sufficiently distracted to go and have a snoop around Facebook to see if other people’s lives offered anything a bit more interesting to think about.

A friend had updated his status and as we are in the habit of throwing mild insults at one another I kept up this practice by making a sarcastic remark. Seconds later up popped a message from him “Have you finished that work yet??! I’m sitting here whiling away my life waiting to proofread it.”

Whoops.

Mental notes have been made.

Slow news month

My absence from this hallowed platform has been merely because I have little to report on recently. Well, obviously, I have LOTS to say, but I’m not sure you’d be wildly interested in the fact that somehow, after weeks of rainlessness in the usually wild and wet West, my front door swelled to such a size that it was almost impossible to shut it… and once shut it was actually impossible to open without someone pushing it from the outside. Which is fine if there is someone trying to get in but not terribly handy if there is no one out there and I am trying to get out. Anyway, the carpenter has solved the problem and normal service has been resumed in that department. (That was the highlight of life on the domestic front…I’ve spared you the rest..)

On the work front it has been alarmingly quiet although (just in the nick of time before I disappeared through the cracks in the floorboards [the cracks in my floorboards are particularly wide…]) I do now have a project to work on. A fashion website… so if you want to know words for seam, dart, yoke etc, all written with gushing sycophancy,  just give me a shout. Actually, the project could be given a whole post of its own because there are various issues to moan about discuss.

I had a few days off to entertain Big Bruv, Big Lad and Northern Star who all came over from Vikingland to do a spot of invading and pillaging. Northern Star was hilarious. I was pointing out a statue of an English saint who was murdered  a thousand years ago by some Danes… I think she felt a little defensive of her forbears because her reaction was “Well, he probably deserved it!”

Other than that, life has been un-newsworthy. Perhaps something more exciting will happen next month…but don’t hold your breath… it will be August, after all, when the whole of Europe goes on holiday. If you don’t hear from me, do come round, step through my easy-to-open front door and check the cracks between the floorboards. I might be down there.

Someone, please put him out of his misery

And no. This is not a post about the current state of our (non) government.

Recently, I was asked to proofread a document that had been written in English by a German native speaker. I agreed (a little reluctantly because you never know just how long it will take. Is their English absolutely fantastic – or am I going to be wading through abysmal Gerlish without a clue of what the author is actually trying to say?)

The English in this case was not too bad but the job posed a few moral considerations.

The first was this:  it eventually became clear that the author was applying – not for a job as I first thought – but for a place at a prestigious business school. His application talked about having studied English at a language school in California. Fair enough. But was he going to pass off my finely crafted and corrected sentences as his own?

Secondly, this young man (well, not so young it turned out. He was 32 although I would have put his maturity at somewhere around 20) did not answer the questions in the right manner. They were fairly standard sorts of questions such as “Describe a situation which went wrong and what you did about it.” I feel sure the assessors were probably looking for an answer something along the lines of “There was this total disaster at work, it looked like we would all be lined up and shot at dawn but with teamwork/my particular skills/taking a big risk/working all night, we/I saved the day and  gained the respect of our clients/nailed a multi million pound deal/learned a lot of lessons about XYZ and everyone got a big pat on the back, which is was our greatest reward.” My young man did not approach it like this. His answer was “Gosh, yes, there was this terrible disaster at work, it looked like we would all be lined up and shot at dawn so I called in sick.”

I was nearly weeping – partly with despair and (as the answers continued in this vein) partly with laughter. I felt dreadful that this chappy was paying me good money to correct his English but what good would it do him when his answers were so inappropriate?  I was visiting the MaPa-rental Seat when doing this job and I read bits out to the Pa-rent who at one point commented, “Oh, dear, I think he’s barking up the wrong tree there”. I replied rather exasperatedly, “Actually, I think he’s just barking.”

He kept reiterating that the course he was applying for was right up his street but he never said WHY. Argh. It was so frustrating!! I felt as if I should rewrite his answers to give him at least a sporting chance of getting an initial interview – but of course, that was not my role.

The cherry on cake of this desperate situation came in the very last paragraph. The question was something along the lines of “if money and time were no object, what would you really, really like to do with your life?” His answer? Blah, blah, your course is just perfect for me because I’ve been working in a related job (although I only did it because my parents told me it was a good idea) [he honestly said this] and so I want to spend thousands of euros to get a Masters in Something I am Not Really Very Interested In blah blah but if I could really do what I wanted, I’d love to be a hotel manager because I love working with people and it would be so satisfying to provide an excellent service in hospitality.

I was so tempted to mail him and say, “Filling in this application form has been a useful exercise because you have finally teased out of your desire to please others (your parents, your boss) that you want to channel your kindness into serving others in a lovely hotel. Please stop slogging your guts out in an unsuitable environment. Invest your euros in a hospitality course and enjoy your life.”

But of course, I couldn’t. My only comment, when I returned the documents to the translation agency, was “I understand this business school has a very prestigious reputation. I would be interested to hear if the applicant is successful. I wish him luck.”

Oh dear.

Creativity

I am always fascinated by creative people – mainly I think because I am so uncreative myself. I cannot knit, sew, bake or draw. Perhaps I can sing a little, but I have been doing precious little of that of late!

The little road I live on is slightly off the beaten track and perhaps for that reason it has attracted its fair share of creative people? I’ve just returned from visiting an elderly neighbour’s house where she has held an art exhibition as part of a local Arts Trail. I had no idea she was so prolific – all the walls in her house were covered with her paintings and she has even dedicated one room in her cottage as a  studio. I should have liked to have painted it (if I could…), a small, low-ceilinged room with an easel in the middle, a desk along the wall full of jars of brushes pointing upwards towards the works they had been used to create.

I almost missed her opening times as I have been absorbed in a work project all day – but it has reminded me that I want to learn to paint in watercolours before I get too old to hold a brush.

Miss Artist joins my other creative neighbours, Mrs Cupcake, Mr Graphic Designer and Mrs Children’s Author.

Musings on Facebook

Facebook. I was persuaded to set up a page. I was fairly reluctant because I was not convinced of the advantages. Why would anyone want to read my one-line updates? (Do not be deceived, dear reader. The irony of anyone wanting to read multi-line updates on my blog is not lost on me. The difference, I think, I hope, (with the exception of this post) is that my little anecdotes here are marginally more interesting, although I fully accept that it is more than probable that they are not, BUT if you read these blatherings, it is entirely your own choice to seek them out as they do not automatically appear on your page). And come to that why would I want to read anyone else’s one-line updates?

I caved into pressure and now have a page. Curiously, two of my most enthusiastic evangelists for Facebook rarely post anything. I’ve decided that people fall into various personality categories. There must be a PhD in Social Behaviour in this somewhere. Interestingly, it seems that most of my friends on the site are like me: they rarely post. Fortunately, though, there are half a dozen who are quite chatty and so there is usually something to read when I go to check up on what’s going on. I have another whole swathe of friends who would never be persuaded to have a page at all. Their attitude (and I can understand it because it was also my stance) is “if I want to say something to my friends, I’ll phone them or send an email”.

This I think is the crux of the problem for me. I can rarely think of anything to say that would be of any interest to all my FB  friends. And if it does not apply to all of them, then why tell them all? I’m still trying to work that one out. (I know, I’m probably taking this all far too seriously!)

Then we have the issue of who is a friend and who isn’t. I have seen pages where the mighty popular have literally hundreds of friends.  I have been approached by some people who had found my page because I am friends with one (or more) of their friends. This was another thing I had been dreading – the school playground scenario of “Can I play with you?” and being rejected…or worse still, having to reject! More knots to tie myself in. There were one or two applications for friendship which concerned me – a) because I felt that there had only ever been a passing acquaintance – even if this had lasted for some 10 years and b) how to draw a line between the type of passing acquaintance that I wanted to accept as a friend and one I didn’t?

Are the 10-year acquaintances wanting to renew contact with me because they genuinely like me (and if this is the case, why were we not better friends when we lived/worked together), or do they want me on their list of friends to boost numbers?

Then there is the reverse situation. I have seen that there are people on the site with whom it might be nice to renew contact – but so many years have passed without any interaction that it might seem a bit late now to try to catch up in such a superficial way.

The whole thing is complicated by being a member of a professional networking site as well. When colleagues see that you are a Facebook friend with a mutual colleague, they want to link via this medium too. I try to keep work and business separate but inevitably there is some overlap.

I came up with the rule of thumb of Christmas cards. If I send a Christmas card to the applicant, they are sufficiently acquainted and may magnanimously be  included on my Facebook page.

The whole thing is a bit of a minefield. I have rejected applications from some would-be friends and although I haven’t had to say anything direct, it must be obvious that I have ignored them as they will see my comments on mutual friends’ updates. I am rather self-consciously aware that my chattier friends are those with vast numbers of friends. Any comment I make there can be potentially read by hundreds of complete strangers. It all feels a bit too public.

Interestingly, in the case of one or two people, I have found out more about them by their being on Facebook than I may otherwise have done. One example is with the forthcoming election. I rarely talk about politics with friends but updates have revealed their political allegiances. There is one person, whom I would describe as very gentle and mild but whose political colours have shown them to be more feisty than I would have ever imagined! (Which just shows that one doesn’t know much about even those one considers to be relatively close friends…perhaps one should spend more Real time with them, rather than wittering on Facebook?)

I have been considering removing myself from Facebook but one of the unexpected advantages is that I get to read lots of different languages. A lot of my friends post bi-lingually and so I see posts in English (obviously), French, German, Danish, Spanish and Afrikaans. I quite enjoy this, so I might be around for a little while longer.

Here endeth the ramble (for now).

New Year’s Resolutions

I need to do a bit [ a lot] of catching up. I don’t think I blogged about my new year’s resolutions… and now that we’re already a quarter and a bit of the way through, it seems a bit late to start now.

But help is at hand, gentle reader, for I believe that I have blogged once before about the fact that the year can start anew whenever you wish it to do so. Admittedly, January 1st is the traditional start to the calendar year but lots of other traditions start their new year on different  dates… Chinese New Year, for example. (There are others, I just can’t dredge them out of my sluggish brain right now).

April 1st this year had a New Year-ish feel to it for me… it was the end of a long period of uninterrupted projects (great in one way..i.e. I got paid, but it meant working for what felt like months without a break.. not even a measly weekend to relax in). So, when the piles of work were finally finished, it felt like the end of term; Easter also gave it that ‘new’ feeling but I was so poleaxed I didn’t get round to blogging.

Now it is the beginning of my own personal new year… so I will tell you about one of the slightly more successful resolutions I made at the end of December. If , after reading it, you are entirely unimpressed, this will merely serve to underline the failure of the other projects I decided to undertake and have not yet tackled.

I thought it was time to tackle my reading. Although I read quite a lot of books, I realised that I have managed to neglect the World Classics.  I am ashamed to say that I have reached the age I am without ever reading any works by Russian, Italian or Spanish authors (or if I have, I cannot remember which they were). There are authors from beyond Europe I have not read. So the objective was to read World Classics in Translation [WCiT] (or in French and German if I Felt Up To It Which I Probably Wouldn’t).

So, how have I done? Pretty miserably on the “In Translation” part of the exercise, truth be told. And pretty abysmally on the World Classics bit, too. So here is a list of what I have read. I’ve stumbled over the following…rather than followed a neat list of What I Should Read. Ah well, judge not, lest ye also be judged.

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen (re-read). Not a huge amount of action over 500 pages if I’m honest.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (re-read). Great story. You will know it. If you don’t, then read it.

The Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith. Pretty tedious. Style did not appeal. Plot did not engage me.

The Shiralee – Darcy Niland. Modern classic. Australian. Beautifully written story of a swagman who takes his four-year old daughter on his travels with him. He learns a lot about himself, life and little girls on the way.  Classed as modern classic, so doesn’t quite fit the original parameters, but who cares?. A gem. Loved it.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark. Did not warm to the protagonist; found her to be rather too smug and self-satisfied to be likeable.

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut – About the bombing of Dresden. Not sure it’s quite my kind of book but at least it comes under the heading of (American) modern classic.

The Assistant – Robert Walser. Bookgroup book. Modern classic by Swiss writer in translation (so getting closer to the original aim). Gave up at page 100. My bookgroup seemed to like it on the whole, so I may resume if I feel life has nothing better to offer but it can’t be described as a page turner.

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert. Woah – hang on to your hats. A World Classic in Translation. Found the eponymous heroine to be rather dull and self-centred. Did not feel that she was experiencing the great love of her life but perhaps that’s the point – she didn’t know when she was happy.  A bit disappointing.

My Childhood – Maxim Gorky. A World Classic in Translation. Autobiographical story of Russian author’s childhood (bet you didn’t guess that bit!) which was pretty miserable (think: David Copperfield). Poor family, no father, lots of beatings for minor misdemeanours. It is part of a trilogy. May seek the others out – but not just yet.

One thing I’ve realised rather belatedly in my quest is that the Real Classics are usually no fewer than 500 pages each. My aim to read one a month may not be achieved. The local library does not seem to stock WCiT, so I shall appeal to my gentle readers to recommend some that I can order. In the event that there is a mighty list those under 250 pages will be given priority. My grateful thanks 😉

Driven to distraction?

This is a tale about my driving licence. I know, I know. I lead a quiet life….

Some years ago, I was the proud owner of a small car – until one rainy January evening. I was living in London and had come home from somewhere or other and had to park my trusty steed on the narrow street where I lived. There were two spots left: one a bit close to the corner – which I rejected on the grounds that it was a bit close to said corner and someone coming round a bit too fast might just clip my wing mirror or even dent my door – and the other a few yards further away from the corner.

I parked in the latter, went inside and sat at my dining table puzzling over my tax return. About half an hour later I heard a sound. “Hmm.. that sounded like a car hitting another, ” I mused, and in that same second just KNEW that it had been a vehicle hitting my carefully parked car. I jumped up, looked out of the window and there in the light of the street lamp, could see four heads in a car which was at a strange angle across the street and obscuring my view of my car. I raced outside in my slippers to confront the lunatic that had no doubt caused damage to the Magic Mushroom (as the car was known to some – on account of its colour rather than any druggy properties it might have been erroneously accused of). This beslippered dash took fewer than 20 seconds but, in that time, the four heads – and their bodies – had disappeared into the drizzly night.

I called the boys in blue and spent a considerable time sitting in a police car giving as much detail as I could when a crackly announcement came over the radio about a stolen car in XX Road. The officer asked me where that road was…I replied it was the one about 25 yards away. It turned out that the car embedded under the wheel arch of my car had been stolen from outside a neighbour’s house (just 4 doors from me), driven fewer than 75 yards before crashing.

Jack the Lass, who, if reading this tale, may remember that the next Saturday, she and I drove separately to some wasteland in South East London (beyond Plumstead…possibly over towards Erith or Thamesmead) to a wrecker’s yard to leave the poor Magic Mushroom to its sad fate. JtL then kindly gave me a lift back to HQ. An irony here is that the Magic Mushroom’s licence plate always came in for some stick as it was KxxxPUT. The wrecker’s yard certainly made sure it was forever kaput.

So, the years passed and I did not replace the poor old mushroom – mainly because having a car in London was something of a luxury when I only ever used it at weekends. And then I moved to the ARC where I live within walking or bussing distance of almost everything so have not needed one.

A few weeks ago, I received a communication from the DVLA telling me that according to a random check they had carried out, they believed that my address on my driving licence was incorrect. They enclosed the forms and guidelines for applying for a new one.

I realised that they were right – and realised with horror that I could be in a bit of trouble for not having updated my licence more promptly. (How do you explain away a delay of um, 5 years, m’lud?) The guidelines had dire warnings of a fine of £1000 and even imprisonment. My existing licence was an old non-photo style one, so I had to get a mugshot taken and then verified by a professional person that it was a true likeness. I asked my friendly local vicar to do the honours. After we’d laughed at the photo (tricky situation: does he say it is a true likeness and insult me, or say that it isn’t a true likeness and destroy all my chances of getting a new licence?) I told him that if the official processing my application was a bit of a jobsworth I could end up serving time. His comforting response was:  Don’t worry; I’d come and visit you. [Thanks, Rev…the thought is much appreciated].

I filled in the form and gave my new address and wotnot. Then re-read the guidelines. The bally things were rather ambiguously written concerning the fee I should enclose. I thought I would phone them to clarify the matter. The first number was no longer in operation – please use this number.

The second number said all their operators were really busy – please listen to this long-winded announcement while you’re waiting and now we’ve said everything, thanks for your call, goodbye. And cut me off.

I found a third number lurking somewhere which was also completely useless, so I resorted to the written word. I sent a letter with my cheque and asked them to contact me if the amount was incorrect.

A few weeks later, I received an envelope containing the return of my passport and a note to say that my new licence would arrive under separate cover. “If you have a query, please ring between 8.15 amd and 4.45 pm Monday to Friday.” Fair enough-ski. But they didn’t give a number to call. (Humph).

A few days later, my shiny new driving licence arrived complete with its prison mugshot and new address – and my cheque. “You are not required to pay a fee so please destroy your cheque.”

I am, of course, delighted not to be donating money to the government – but I would like to point out to anyone interested that if I am not required to pay a fee then their instructions are even muddier than I first thought. My problem was given the conflicting advice in your guidelines: do I pay fee x or fee y? because depending on how you interpret the official-ese I seem to fall into two categories. Now you’re telling me I don’t fall into either of them. I’m not going to argue but I really think I fall into at least one… – Happy to proofread your documents, dear DVLA, for a healthy fee, of course!

Split loyalties

It is interesting to see how different countries present the news.  On a late-night news bulletin yesterday, I heard that Andy Murray had beaten his opponent in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. There was lots of talk about tactics, strength and skill.

I have just read in the Hamburger Abendblatt that Roger Federer has reached the final of the same tournament. Here there is lots of talk about how brilliant he is, how many tournaments he’s won etc. There is an implication that he will win this one, too.

But who do I cross my fingers for? I think Federer is fantastic, not only is he an amazing player he seems to be an incredibly nice person, too (and I’ve had the pleasure of translating some press releases about him).  I *always* want him to win. But it would be rather good if a Brit won the Aussie Open… it hasn’t happened for 30 years. It’s about time.

I might just have to screw up my eyes, turn down the volume on my ears and hide under the duvet until Monday morning.

In one way, I suppose, I won’t be disappointed whoever wins… but nevertheless, it all feels rather agonising.