19 May 2010

Pronouncing Brunelleschi

‘Church nice. Sun hot. Tony Blair war criminal.’

‘They change the sky, not their soul, who run across the sea...’.

As regular Corfuchsian Irregular readers know, this is the meanest-spirited, snobbishest, diss-determinedest scribbling I can come up with.

Come the midnight knock on the door, I will be strung up by my heels and given the good news en personne by Del' Boy Smellie himself.

When his Asp arm tires, the slightly dark-skinned Anjoum Noorani will glower those 'huge oil-coloured eyes' to take over whupping me with his Balliol tie.

Come touristiki time, I gen up on all the AB and Lidl sweeties' names (especially that humdinger of a cutie with those €200 red specs; ask her)

I make sure I know all the Greek veg names so that I can turn with the sneering answer to "Wossa Greek for leek? Wossit for Marmite? Where they keep their Brit bangers?"

I always suspected Lloyd Evans was one of me and his 'Travel Narrows the Mind' piece in the 8 May Speccie delivers.

Here are extracts that, even as I paste them, quicken my pulse and gladden my dark soul.

True believers will have already clicked and be reading with narrow-eyed glee.

Expect a balancing comment from the saintly Sinbad, of whom I take the liberty of posting this heart-warming family-power affirming pic because I know my own gals sneak peeks at their pater's shy-making blog.

Darlings: that joke about giving you away in an Elvis costume was, like, a joke?

I just wanted to see the preacher man's face when I did my 'Thank you verr much' line.

As someone pointed out,

"You're only such an asshole because you know that Professor Baddeley will come to the rescue and cue you into a responding mea culpa."
But I digress. The razor rusts; the bovver boot turns to velvette slipper with my gold monogram.

"The public-school banker flip-flopping around Rome in his shorts and straw hat and glancing at his Architecture of the Italian Renaissance while struggling to pronounce Brunelleschi correctly is no different from the half-naked skinhead who visits Rome for a soccer final and lobs a bar-stool through a plate-glass window before being jumped on by the carabinieri and kicked senseless. The colorations may vary but the species are identical.

Both specimens have temporarily swapped their real self for an idealised persona based on some earlier version of the English character.

The banker has become an 18th-century milord on the Grand Tour. The skinhead (who may be a banker too, incidentally) has become a marauding 7th-century Viking. Both have adopted habits of dress they would not follow at home. Both want to interact with an alien society and appropriate a part of its culture within the limited bounds of their physical or mental powers.

Mass tourism has turned the decent self-respecting Mediterraneans into folk-dancing, zither-smiting, smock-wearing parodies of their ancestors. Go to Turkey and some unemployed cornerboy claiming to be a whirling dervish will rotate on the spot for you for a few minutes before pocketing your gratuity and wobbling off to be sick in the bushes.

[Cue Gap Yah chundAAH]

One of the most depressing aspects of foreign travel is watching oneself attempt to communicate.

[My emboldenment]

Unless you’re a master linguist, you’re likely to cause distress whenever you open your mouth.

Even here in England my conversation is known to cause drowsiness.

Abroad, when I break into a foreign tongue, I can endanger life.

I’m all too familiar with that look of outraged Gallic pride that crosses a Frenchman’s brow when he sees a rosbif about to essay the language of Racine and Voltaire.

It’s not an expression I take any pleasure in provoking so I prefer to advance my thoughts in a mutually intelligible pidgin.

But this narrows my table-talk to the crudest phrase-book inanities.

‘Church nice. Sun hot. Tony Blair war criminal.’

And once the conversation has settled into English I find my hosts all too willing to unfurl a distorted version of our language and harry it to death before my eyes."

No comments :