Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Manuel and the near diplomatic incident....

So there I was enjoying a post lunch service smospresso when the lady sitting beside me on the bench near work burst into tears. No warning, no obvious reason, just floods of uncontrollable tears and apparent anguish.

"Crikey, that's a bit rum, " was my first reaction.

"Retreat, quick", was my second.

But I didn't.

"Eh, you okay?"

Between what seemed like exaggerated and rather forced boo hoo's she said she was fine. Actually she said, "I'm fiiiiiiiiiiine bwaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaa boooooo hoooooo!" And so on.

"Okie dokie then." Hell if she wanted to pretend she was fine then I was gonna pretend she was too. The fuck was I gonna pursue this any further so I necked my little coffee and retreaded back into the shadows and out of the sun where the mad people were.

Strange.

a smospresso....
if you don't see heaven you're doing it wrong.


That said it wasn't the strangest moment of the day, no that was definitely the conversation I entered into with a very jolly Frenchman. Strange because he spoke very little English and I speak very little French. That is to say, none. But damn it if we were going to let that mere detail get in the way of our amusement.

"So," says I to him, "have you been to Ireland before?"

"Excusez-moi?" says he to me.

"Ave you been ere bay-four?" Says I slower than before and more pronounced too. I also decided that Frenching it up a bit would help too. I also did big piano hands to indicate "here".

"Ah, non. Eets ma first time!" He was chuffed that he got what I was asking. He was chuffed, I was chuffed. So I carried on!

"Do you lack it ere?"

He shrugged his shoulders as only a Frenchman can.

I took this as another lost in translation moment rather than indifference to Belfast. Although that would be completely understandable. So I persevered by asking the same question in the same way but with added pointing and added sign language and a little louder. Because that was bound to help. D'uh.

"DO YOU..." I was pointing at him now. "...LACK EET ERE IN IRLANDAIS?"

And bugger me it worked!

"Ah, oui oui! Eet is, ow you say, beautiful, grande eestory!"

Now I could have left it that. I asked some questions. I got some answers. I established some facts and made a jolly Frenchman a little less jolly. Who could ask for more? I should have left it like I left the crying woman. But oh no, not me!

Onwards into mass confusion....

Emboldened by my previous success I followed with, "Ow long are you ere for?"

Blank stare.

"Ow many days dans Irlandais?"

Blank stare.

I paused. His jolly smile was gone and he looked as comfortable as an Arab at an airport. One more try.

"Ow long you, combien, Irlandais?" I was pointing at him. I was pointing at my watch. I was desperate to extradite myself from this car crash of a conversation.

"Ow old me?" If you thought he had been uncomfortable before you should have seen his little perplexed face at that moment.

"Merde", this is going terribly I thought and wished I could push the abort button and find myself no where near any jolly Frenchmen or French people at all.

"Non, non, non..." I struggled to rephrase the question.

"Nine days", came a response from the ether. A beautifully sweet French voice. It was the tour guide herself. A pleasant woman but neither sweet nor beautiful. She had been listening into to our diplomatic disaster of a conversation. She explained to the jolly again Frenchman what I had been asking.

We shook hands and said, "Au revoir" each glad to be shot of the other. How do I get myself into these messes? Honestly you would think I'd know better by now. But there is only one more French tour group left this "summer", summer that's a joke. Which gives me a good 6 months to brush up on my Franglais!

C'est magnifique.......no?

36 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

You're too friendly, that's your problem, Manuel.

Manuel said...

you know what it is Medbh, I love talking to people, especially tourists.....you learn something new everytime...like not talking to people who don't speak the same language...

B said...

So you tried speaking 'Allo 'Allo french? ...and it actually worked?!

Why did I spend 5 years of my life learning that language when a shoddy BBC sitcom was giving me an easy way out.

Manuel said...

b: leesten carefully ah shall say thees only wance.....Ah am a genius.....

B said...

'Allo 'Allo would say jay knee ooze

Manuel said...

b: took me a moment there......

The Tall Red Head said...

Bit like the busload of Japanese Tourists that came into our pub and were extremely confused when some very drunk women next to them ordered 5 Cocksucking Cowboys and 6 Cement Mixers. Lost in Translation indeed. It got even more lost when one of the tourists asked where we got the cowboys from....and could he order one.

Silverstar said...

The problem is you forgot to yell. You have to yell like they are deaf, too. That works every time.

MJ said...

Advice for talking to Canadians...

Repeatedly end your questions with "eh?"

Shrugging of the shoulders also works on les Québécois.

savannah said...

out in lalaland everyone uses an earbud and never talks to anyone in person only on the mobile handsfree go figure1 xoxox

it's so good to be home!

Mudflapgypsy said...

Mais le sange est dans l'arbre.

Guaranteed to get a strange look every time, even when there is a blloody monkey in the tree!

AnFearBui said...

Where was the fallen madonna with the big boobies during all of this?

Manuel said...

tall red head: bwahahahaha yeah that's not cool......funny though and that's what counts....

silverstar: d'oh

mj: how to deal with canadians, "oh so your not american?" = lovely lovely tips

savannah: eek......where's the fun in that....?

muddy: eddie izzard......quality....

anfearbui: bwahahahahaha - on table 6 actually....

Sniffle&Cry said...

More a Venus and Mars then a lost in translation moment, the gals are difficult to understand sometimes. She was overwrought and just needed you to listen.

Manuel said...

sniffle & amp: I should have said she was rather hippyish on and it and was reading one of those self help manuals.......and you know that ain't good. It was probably some sort of cry yourself happy therapy thingy......

Manuel said...

cry.....that should have been cry....

Cathy said...

At least she wasn't crying in French. That would have been an interesting conversation...

Manuel said...

cathy: jesus! can you imagine......welcome by the way.....

Conan Drumm said...

Ah bien, monsieur... you could have spoken in menu-speak: Creme tartare dauphinois jus pate brulee porc crudites peche provencale, oui?

Manuel said...

conan: non comprende big fella......mange tout n all that

Anthony said...

Cheers Manuel, that brings back good memories of when i was in Japan last year. I only spoke some Japanese, they only spoke some English, but we would always get so excited when we managed to understand each other. But it always ended up with an embarassing end, and there was no tour guide to rescue me....

Shieldmaiden96 said...

I have to confess, I had trouble with questions like that when I was there and I'm American. People would catch wind of my accent, and being very friendly, ask me these three questions.

1. Why'd you come here, then?
2. How long ya here for?
3. (inexplicably) You ever been ta Disney? Fucking brilliant.

Because of my job I could only ditch work and enjoy the tourist visa in January, February, and March, which as you know is 'Rained, raining, and about to rain' in Belfast. So I had a good old raging case of bronchitis and could not hear very well. So I was as confused as your Frenchman.

conortje said...

It's a sign you should sign up for a French course this autumn!

Manuel said...

anthony: welcome! ah man you always need a smart assed tour guide.....

shieldmaiden96: god if you thought the rain was bad then you should see it today.....good weather for ducks.....

conortje: my life is full as it is......merci all the same.....

Red hair, Red face said...

LOVE IT! i used to work in a shop and when talking to foreigners i used to just be louder and slower

Manuel said...

red hair, red face: welcome! My there has been a lot of new people on this week. YES SHOUTING IS THE KEY. SHOUTING AND PATRONISING. It's loads of fun eh? hehehehe

The Idle Wanderer said...

You're too friendly, you are. It's a horrible situation to be in.

I once had to pass an evening talking about Czech football with a tramp who spoke no English. My cheeks and neck hurt from all the smiling and nodding. And in the true spirit of intrnational friendship he nicked all my fags, the bastard.

Diplomacy is rubbish.

Manuel said...

idler: so's having your smokes nicked.....cheeky cont.....

T cup said...

listen very carefully i shall say this only once!

i love how we shout at them and use a version of sign language to communicate. i worked in spain teaching english for a month and i'm not joking ya i came home shouting and over animating at people just so i'd be understood!

Manuel said...

t cup: oh and how we get upset when they do it to us when we are on our jollies.....hehehehehe

T cup said...

i know!! the state of it!! it's funny though.


ARE YOU (points at person) GOING (hand motion moving back and forth) TO ( sticks up two fingers) THE (puts left index on top of right) SWIMMIMG POOL (makes hand motion a la breast stroke!)

Johnny foreigner thinks to himself did she just tell me to go fu*ck myself???

Manuel said...

t cup: bwahahahaha......awesome

The Hangar Queen said...

Gut Moaning!

Class stuff fella.I have downed RAF airmen now stuck in my mind.They're not very happy there.

Manuel said...

the hangar queen: hey how you doing? I never liked that show if I'm being honest.....

Crispy said...

Superbe!!! Ah man, I have tears rolling down my face.

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