Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: Failure: or, conversations in Russian.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Failure: or, conversations in Russian.

Last guests have finally departed: the Chilean wife now triumphantly asserting she can dive WITHOUT AN INSTRUCTOR- and will, shortly, have the certificate to prove it. Granny who has no desire to scuba dive, with or without an instructor - snorkelling will do her just fine, though in warmer waters than here - can only applaud, bemusedly; she does applaud. (Chilean wife is also a granny which makes it all the more admirable. Doesn't it?)

She got to approve of the couple, though; it has been an entertaining week. She does ponder the national stereotypes evoked by the different accents, in English, of different nationalities. The Russian accent in particular is such a parody it's hard to take the speaker seriously until you get used to it. But the Russian - whose intelligence Beloved, grudgingly began to rate more highly as the week went on - turned out to have the most interesting history of all the visitors. OK, it's familiar, in some respects - but out of the horse's mouth, that's different...Brought up in Moscow as a fervent young pioneer, indoctrinated by Soviet propaganda, came to see communism as fascism under another name, got the hell out im 1981 under the dispensation offered to Jews to go to Israel. Not that this Jew wanted to go to Israel: most of them didn't. They just wanted out of the USSR. (And, anyway (in this Jew's view) the dispensation was only offered because the Russian leadership of the time wanted something out of the Americans.) So he ended up in America. Where he is, just like the Russian Jews in Israel, a bit of a hawk, security his no 1 issue in the upcoming presidential election. 'Bush should bomb Iran right now'... etc.

That's just one side; the rest seemed much more benign. Like so many Russians of his generation - what else did they get that wasn't propaganda? - this one was extremely well-read in Russian literature; also very musical, having sung in a succession of Russian Orthodox choirs; each time when presented with a crucifix - or two - to kiss, his obvious recoil would get him thrown out by some fuming, long-bearded priest, he had to move on to another one in need - all of them were in need - of good baritones. This mix of interests led to some interesting conversational confusions at the last-night dinner to which the guests treated Granny and Beloved down by the seashore, while the white waves caught the light in the darkness and an owl flew past. Beloved, sitting on one side of the table, would discuss science/philosophy with the Russian, while Granny looked blank on the other. Next minute Granny and the Russian would be discussing Shostakovitch or Dostoyevsky while Beloved looking blank in his turn did his best to superimpose some science. In betweenwhiles the two Grannies discussed their grandchildren. It was an archetypal example of what Granny was told once was archetypal Russian conversation -the sublime and the ridiculous and/or trivial - the samovar and God, scuba-diving and consciousness, science and lobsters in consecutive sentences. And oh yes, the samovar did get discussed; really. And the glasses out of which the tea was drunk and the metal holders they came in, one version of which seemed to be the equivalent of the madeleine for the Russian, making him very nostalgic. Even the seemingly anorexic Chilean forgot herself so far as to eat quite a lot, ending with the ' postres' - desserts -which she said was all she really wanted. Unless anorexia can come with an addiction to sugar maybe she isn't an anorexic really. Just a non-eater; her husband the size of two or three of her could eat her all up; easily.

But now they've gone, bearing gifts for the Chilean's grandchildren; the only sign of their presence, apart from the breakfast dishes and the dirty laundry, are the boxes in which the gifts came - this granny didn't want them for some reason. 'Use them for your Christmas presents,' she urged. Well, possibly. The house seems empty and the one thing between Granny and the work she should be doing now is her lack of willpower. The washing/cleaning/washing-up seems a pleasanter prospect; really. Getting back into a book she will tell you is MUCH WORSE than starting one. She prefers to write here and to reflect on the mental, semantic possibly neurological confusions of husband and wife each born to a language neither of the other knows and conversing from those different linguistic, semantic, cultural backgrounds in yet a third language. 'Darlink.' Etc. It could lead to many misunderstandings. Or maybe, just possibly, it's helpful. A lot of marriages founder - don't they? -on an unmet expectation of mutual understanding. If linguistic distance means mutual understanding is linguistically out of the question, it might even relieve the partners of all that. In the same way as Granny and Beloved are relieved of it by their unmediated, mutually incomprehensible intellectual languages - so just get on with being happily different. And talking about samovars, metaphorically speaking. Or things like that.

Beloved goes to London next week for a medical check-up. Granny will be her own then and have no excuse whatever; not even her present one of working on the new MAC desktop, bought for internet access in the kitchen, on which she cannot load her Office for MAC for 2004, for some reason, meaning she can't write Going Mental on it, nor upload Going Mental here. To do that she has to go back to her laptop, which cannot be connected to the Internet while the desktop is connected as she's also totally failed to load their wireless system onto it. Telefonica has as much difficulty in speaking to MAC equipment as Granny currently has in speaking to her left-in-mid-stream M/S. Excuses, excuses. But useful.

It's been raining - a little earlier than it usually does here in the autumn. It's colder. Winter in its rather milder form than elsewhere is on its way. Even here.

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