Tuesday, 29 September 2009

More funny English

My previous post on dodgy English around the world has just brought back a long forgotten childhood memory, hidden in the depths of my subconscious for about 20 years; my 'Gay Surfer' episode. I was 11, and had just returned to the UK after 5 years in Sudan and was the new, supposedly 'posh' (don't know where the hell that came from?) girl that was trying to fit in at school with all the Wandsworth natives. Anyway, I was quite excited about my first school trip with Walsingham School for Girls and had my mum buy me a new outfit especially for the occasion; a turquoise blue jersey skirt and matching tee - to my mind perfect for a day out by the seaside as it was printed with a surfing scene and some random caption about surfing. Only when I got home, did I realise, to my horror, that the caption read 'Gay surfers'. I probably wouldn't have cared too much, but this would have made me the ridicule of the school trip and possibly the school for the rest of the term, so my mum, ever practical, got out her permanent marker and changed the 'G' to a 'D', so it read 'Day surfers'. Ironically, Gay surfers reads a lot better than Day surfers, but hey, it got me out of a tight corner. Thanks mum.

Popes wrinkled? Yes, he is!

In Spain if you get given a restaurant menu in English you are sometimes confronted with hilarious translations (though much less than 7 years ago when I first arrived). Like everywhere else in the world, people can be so stingy when it comes to translations, and instead of paying what would probably amount to 50euros (my rates) to translate a simple menu, small (and not so small) business owners would rather get some uncle or cousin who 'knows a bit of English' to do the job for them, or worse still use one of those dodgy translation programmes. Sometimes the results are truly funny, the real menu photographed above was taken by my freind Kate in a popular eaterie La Latina - popes wrinkled, rather than bearing any relation to the head of the Catholic chruch, is the literal translation of papas arrugadas (mini potatoes in their wrinkled skins) Still, the type of phrasal faux pas commited here is nothing compared to what the guys from the website Engrish have encountered on their travels (around the far east by the looks of it). Just a couple of examples below. Point four of the first photo is particularly disturbing.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Adios cañas

A few weeks ago, when it was still sweltering hot in Madrid, I did a little survey to find out what people thought were the most refreshing summer drinks. Unsurprisingly, the winner was ice-cold beer.... I say 'unsurprisingly' because everyone goes on about how refreshing beer is, but actually, for me, beer is probably one of the last things I'd want on a hot (or cold) day. All I want when it's warm is Coca Cola (not Pepsi), I guess you could just say that I don't 'get' beer, in the same way that some people don't get wine. In fact I'd never really drunk beer until I came to live in Madrid. It's not that the beer here is particularly good (I know so little about beer, that I don't even have the right to judge good vs. bad beer, though some of that German stuff made of wheat does seem to taste quite nice). No, I started dabbling in beer/lager (don't even know the difference) because beer here is basically tiny. It's served in dolls-house sized glasses known as cañas, and frankly I can finish one before I even realise you I¡m consuming 'the evil grain'. Another reason was that matching my friends drink for drink on wines vs. cañas was not a good idea, plus their diminutive size means you can finish cañas while they are still cold and before they warm up and get that lagery taste I can't stand. Anyway, summer is almost over, and with it my beer drinking (which amounted to about 2 cañas this summer). Today is San Miguel, known in Madrid for a phenomenon called 'veranito de San Miguel' (little summer of San Miguel) where the march forth into autumnal weather is interrupted by a few days of Madrileño hell-summer. The Veranito dissappears as quickly as it arrives, as do the cañas (at least for me) - and with the beer, go refreshing summer cocktails like mojitos, and a we can give a warm welcome back to full-bodies red wines, port, Christmas brandy and best of all hot chocolate. Autumn rocks!

Friday, 25 September 2009

More bridesmaid-mania

These are some dresses that are inspiring me for Sayda's big day (they have to be purple/navy blue). I wish I had my sewing machine here; despite being only an amatuer seamstress I would definitely attempt to make my own dress simply to get away from all the shiny, static-inducing prom-night gowns that seem to be in the shops at the moment (I wonder if a no-sew, velcro fastening dress would be appropriate ;-) I love Hilark Swank's blue number, but there's no way I'd show so much back at my sister's wedding! And Uma Thurman's white gown looks lovely (It'd be in purple obviously, though maybe I've included this as I actually want to look like Uma Thurman rather than wear that dress). Lovely, lovely dresses...

Bits and pieces

Last weekend was my little sister's hen night in Barcelona, and after weeks of planning, I'm glad to say that fun was had by all :-) Whenever I plan an event I'm always super stressed that something will go horrible wrong (especially chaperoning 11 foreign ladies in Spain) but everything worked out really well; the apartments we rented were really central and nicely refurbished, the spa was lovely and the cocktail making class and competetion went well. There were no strippers (fortunately) but we did amuse ourselves playing silly games (like loo-roll bridal gown design) and the food was yummy all round and the dancing was fun too. I've come back to Madrid knackered and in need of my own private spa session, and aware that I need to get my skates on with finding that purple bridesmaid's dress for the wedding in November (I've decided that the expensive one is a no no, especially for a one-off event). Aside from hen-night recuperation, it's been a pretty tranquil week, I've been trying out these meditation MP3s, sound cheesy, but they do seem to help me to relax. Hopefully I'll learn proper meditiation at some point, but to be honest at the moment I need my time and my cash for other purposes (like bridesmaid dress shopping, weddings are so expensive!). I have a few article ideas on the back burner, but I've been freelancing a lot lately and haven't had time to finish them, promise to finish and upload them soon :-)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Just checking in...

This is a quickie, as the past couple of weeks have been mega busy planning my sister's hen night in Barcelona (this weekend, can't wait!). I can't reveal any details in case she looks at the blog, but will share afterwards :-) I've also been frantically looking for a purple/blue bridesmaid's dress for the big event. She doesn't get married till November, but I'm going to be pretty busy until then, so 'the early bird catches the worm' and all that (or in this case, the early girl catches the frock). Anyway, I've found the ideal dress, but it's over budget, so I'm weighing up the pros and cons of overspending on a dress that I'll wear only once in my life ?:-/??

Monday, 7 September 2009

Where does all the lost stuff go?

I've always wondered what happed to all the stuff I've lost and never recovered over the years; the ridulously small blue halter top at uni, my 18th birthday watch (which disappeared from my room), the fancy watch that disappeared from my wrist (really!) in the late 90s, the expensive black fur-trimmed coat on Airfrance, my wallet in Birmingham, and just the other month on a work trip to a country house in Spain I left a beloved beige-knit cardigan (ok it's only a cardigan) and called back the next morning to be told there was not trace of it (leaving the hotel staff anf my colleagues as chief 'suspects' ;-)) Ok, I accept that in a lifetime you're going to lose a certain amount of stuff, and sometimes other people will find it, and usually they won't try to find you and give it back if they like it. Finders keepers, losers weepers. But what always gets me is that whilst my old stuff presumably finds its way into the hands of fellow bi-peds, I never find anything! (I lie, once, in a park 15 years ago, I found a 1-pound coin) Surely if we are all losing, say, 5 items a year, we should also be receiving about that amount of other people's lost stuff too!! Or maybe the majority of the lost stuff is finding it's way into the hands of just a few? For example airport workers must get their hands on a whole load of lost goodies. Like my coat on Airfrance. Ok, I don't seriously want to get my hands on other people's lost stuff, but I've always had this weird urge to be a fly on the wall watching someone else use my lost stuff, to see that Air hostess/passenger wearing my 'best' coat, or perhaps find it stuffed in some invisible space in the aircraft, undiscovered and never to be seen again. Anyhow, I was reminded of all this when watching España Directo this afternoon (a TV programme for marujas, or fuddy duddy housewives, reporting human interest stories from around the country e.g. 'my hamster accidentally got washed in the washing machine and survived'). Today, they were reporting on a new website called Loede, which unites losers and finders of objects and even pets. What a nice idea. It's hard to believe that anyone is good enough to actually try to return items to their owners, but you look at the website and see that there are people who find things like rings and digital cameras and actually try to give them back. Made me smile.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Back to school

I think if you've ever been a teacher (I was for 3 years), you somehow never stop thinking of life in terms of terms. And here I am, back in Madrid (as of an hour ago) about to start the summer term (unfortunately) after a month away in Sicily and Barcelona, with the mysterious Catalan man otherwise known on the blog as 'S'. I've already blogged a bit about Sicily, and as for Barcelona, as ever, it was lovely and I think I've managed to pick up a few more Catalan words (that's paraulas, I think - just being a showoff now - 'wow, i know 3 words, I'm fluent!'), I met some of S's extended family, who were very sweet, and made an effort to talk to me in Spanish (rather than Catalan) and avoided indiscreet questions about my odd racial background :-) My 'odd racial background' (half British, half Sudanese) isn't really that odd, but somehow you add to that 7 years in Madrid and an appearance that people don't associate with being either British or African, plus parents that live in Egypt and a lovely brother who's half Chinese, and it all gets a bit blurry. And it's hard to explain it to people without the word 'exotic' being thrown in, which just feels sooo pornstar - ewww! Don't get me wrong, I love my multiracial family, I just feel it might be easier to design a sort of calling card to give to people when I first meet them explaining everything in a short paragraph (perhaps with a neat little family tree and maps thrown in, 'Where's Sudan?' 'Near India, isn't it?!' I shouldn't mock, I'd be pushed to tell you where Pennsylvania is, or even how to spell it properly :p)
Anyway, back to school. I was actually dreading arriving in Madrid to find my house had been invaded by cockroaches and/or theives. That might sound a bit paranoid, but living in a first floor exterior flat in Lavapiés, trust me, it's possible. But, yay, no unwelcome 'guests'! Also it seems some elves had visited whilst I was away and thoroughly cleaned and decluttered the flat for me. Except, it must have been me that did it, but I just don't remember (always a nice surprise, a bit like when you find money in a an old handbag). Well, tomorrow I'm back in the office, so I should unpack and get some sleep. Good night, bona nit, buenas noches, tasbah ala kheir :-)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

More personal development

Personal development (which sounds so much better than self-help ;-)) is a book genre I like to dip into occasionally. To be honest, I probably end up applying about 5% of what I read (if that), but I figure every little helps. At the moment I'm sporadically reading the best-seller The 7 rules of highly effective people (books with numbered lists - 10 rules, 5 principles etc, sound so convincing, don't you think?) and actually, so far I quite like it. The intro chapter is a bit preachy, but I like the idea behind it, as it's just 7 principles which you apply to every aspect of your life for all-round increased effectivity. It's all pretty obvious stuff so far (I'm on the first principle, pro-activity) but sometimes I need a little reminder (make that a shove, as I'm about to finish my summer break and am not feeling 100% motivated). I'm about to move onto the second principle - 'start with the end in mind' which is something I'm sometimes guilty of not applying, often ad-libbing my way through projects, which makes for good creativity but some wasted energy along the way as I explore different dead-end options. Perhaps I should have applied that principle when writing this blog entry, and I wouldn't be sat here, wondering how to finish it off without sounding stilted and awkward ;-)

I'm (occasionally) loving it

I have a confession to make: I'm Nadya and I like McDonald's. There, I said it, that wasn't so bad. McDonald's and I don't have a serious relationship though, it's more of a sporadic fling thing... I like good home-cooked fare as much as the next person, but every few months I get the urge to devour a take-out bagful of this fast food; cheeseburger, medium fries, small coke and a curry sauce, quite a modest meal for a relapsed user I think, in any case I never fancy any of those weird seasonal promotion offerings - McParis burger, what's that all about?? I know it's bad for me, but I figure the fritanga and unidentified meat in the Carabanchel working men's caff we go to at work is just as bad, if not worse :-) But am I really the only grown up that eats this stuff? On the few occasions I've mentioned it to people they've looked at me as if I'd commited cannibalism! So for now, I'll have to continue chomping cheesburgers in secret (or with other 'junk foodies').
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