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.

L’arnacoeur – film review

L’arnacoeur – or Heartbreaker – to give it its English title is a French romcom starring Vanessa Paradis (aka Mrs Johnny Depp – and who looks like Madonna) and Romain Duris. The film took 10 million euros in its first 10 days in France breaking various box office records.

I’m not so sure it will do that here in the UK – partly because we don’t yet use the euro 😉 and partly because I don’t suppose it will get the exposure in the big cinema chains. Luckily for us in the ARC, we have a small indie -ish cinema that shows foreign-language films (and it has a French “season” on for the remainder of July so you may get another review or two before too long).

The plot revolves around Duris’ job as a professional un-matchmaker – that is, he is employed to break up unsuitable relationships. He is in business with his sister and her husband who are quite hilarious as they take on various guises to support Duris. We see them as a window cleaner, chamber maid, taxi driver, etc. doing their bit to ensure that Duris is successful.

He takes on a new commission to separate Paradis from her well-heeled, good-looking British fiancé (Andrew Lincoln – who went to school in the ARC) before their wedding takes place in Monte Carlo in 10 days’ time. Duris employs his usual tactics which all seem to fail and his project looks doomed. Without his fee for successful completion, he won’t be able to pay off some henchmen who are on his trail. With Paradis’ best friend turning up for some last-minute pre-marriage drunken fun (providing some moments of slapstick) and everything stacked against him, what can Duris do to achieve his goal?

I’ve read that the success of this film has already been noted by Hollywood which is already planning a remake. Why do they do this?! The film is a good romcom as it stands. Why can’t they just leave well alone?

Colourful words

Recently, I have been involved with two translations that could be said to be rather colourful.

The first required an actual colour scheme. (Mine is not to ask why… I just followed the instructions…I am a translating machine….)

All foreign words and names had to be red (lots) , all abbreviations and acronyms yellow, (and there were lots and lots!), all my queries for discussion with the proofreader turquoise, and mistakes in the original text pink. It looked more like a rainbow than a translation.

The second was dealing with a subject area that could be termed “sensitive”. I was very careful and politically correct in my choice of words to avoid any offence. I wasn’t sure, however, whether to laugh or cry when I found that an acronym used for an organisation had a rather unfortunate meaning in English (I warned the client, but it was too late – this was the registered name) and a website had a URL which didn’t quite spell an offensive English word – but certainly sounds like one if you were to say it out loud.

Oh whoops.

Just answer the question!

Gentle readers, this post is officially the first in my new category of Rants and Pontifications.  You have over the years been mistreated and exposed to some of my outbursts of exasperation. Those were unofficial. Kind of. In honour of having recently been subject to some rather irritating situations about which I have not had time to blog I now feel it is the time to formalise these situations by awarding them a section all of their very own.

Rants are likely to feature wailing and gnashing of teeth about irritating people and/or situations whereas Pontifications may be more soap-box in style where I disclose How Things Should be Done – and Would Be Done If I Ruled the World.

So. Fasten your seat belts for a Rant.

Some time ago, an acquaintance and I fell into conversation and found we had a mutual area of interest. He was keen to pursue our interest by forming a club. I took soundings and duly advertised the launch of proposed club in the village. A few people came on the date suggested and a club was shakily launched. One person, who would be a key asset to the club, expressed an interest but said she could not manage to meet on the evening arranged.

I sent an email to the other members saying, “Tell me all the evenings of the week you are free and I will sort out the one which is the best for the majority.” I even bossily emboldened the word “free“. Of those who have deigned to reply by the deadline (which was given because we need to advertise any change of date in the next village newspaper that is issued only 3 times a year), most have said “Oh yes, Thursdays are fine for me.” One has even said “I’ve told a lot of friends that we meet on Thursdays and they may be coming along, too.”

Gah. I know Thursdays are fine for you; you came to the last meeting on a Thursday; I want to know which other nights of the week are also good. Believe me, dear club members, if we can meet on an evening that is not Thursday, we will all benefit hugely from our potential Key Asset member. I am not asking you to change your evening for some perverse reason of my own… it is done entirely with your interests in mind.

I had been trying to sort this thing out efficiently – but now I’m going to have to send another email (I shall have to try not to be too bossy or patronising – but really, how difficult is the question?) and cross my fingers that they get the message this time.

Another most irritating thing about this is that My Acquaintance whose enthusiasm for the idea sparked the whole venture in the first place did not come to the first meeting and has not even replied to the most recent email.

GAH!!

Humph

Mrs Tiggywinkle interrupts her high-level translation work to bring you the  latest news from the cutting edge of intercultural co-operation and understanding.

The sentence currently under construction reads thus (in translation, obviously):  “In addition to some people who are frequent visitors, there were many first-time guests at the XXX, some of whom were visiting for the first time.”

Yes. Well, I suppose first-time guests would be visiting for the first time… or am I missing something here? And who exactly were the first-time guests who were on a repeat visit, I wonder?

I do not mind spending my sunny Saturday afternoons translating screeds of verbiage… (no, no, really, I don’t mind at all…) but it would be nice if it at least said something half-way intelligible.

Humph.

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).

I missed two off the list

Two more books I read between Jan 1st and April 1st – neither of which fit the WCiT criterion:

Peril at End House – Agatha Christie. Poirot solving mysteries in Cornwall and drawing the correct conclusion using his little grey cells. His side-kick Captain Hastings was also there – hindering the investigation as usual. I wonder what Mrs Hastings thinks about his long absences from home? They are never work related – unless amateur sleuthing is his job.  I was fascinated by the cover of this book: it does not say when the oeuvre was published but judging from the advert (advert!!) on the back cover it must have been in the 1950s. For there is a black and white photo of a bride and a lurid green slogan saying “Happy is the Bride with a Bravington Ring” (unnecessary use of capitals in my view…). Depicted are 6 wedding rings ranging in price from £3.17.06 and a mighty £10.0.0  (that’s pounds, shillings and pence, in case you were born after 1971) with the amazing statement “Orders by post sent of 7 days approval. Cash refunded if not satisfied.” I can’t imagine buying a wedding ring based on a drawing.

Ad is not unlike this one in style. Bravingtons is still trading.[I hope that linky thing has worked – it’s my first attempt ever!]

The other book I missed off the list was bought at the local LitFest after hearing the author speak on the subject:

The File – Timothy Garton Ash.  Garton Ash went to live in East Berlin in 1978 to research for his PhD. The Stasi kept a file on him – his code name was Romeo.  He decided to track down the people who had informed on him and those he was friends with – and considers the differences between history and memory; the version of his life as documented by the Stasi and the version documented in his own diary.

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 😉