A London bbq

Oh, Britons are so weird!

Their classy and composed speaking, their messy and uneducated eating, their stone cold behaviour and aggressively drunk manners along with their unstable position in relationships – distant, indifferent, uninterested. Sometimes you wonder about what they feel like, if they feel something; how they handle their daily life, their BBC, their afternoon tea, and that thing they call ‘latte(y)’.

LATTE(y)???
Yeah, apparently they’ve discovered some evolution of cappuccino for us still unknown.

Speaking of which, our friends threw a bbq a couple of days ago to celebrate a mate’s bday.
With the rare fantastic weather being the perfect background – steaks, burgers, sausages and much more flipping on the grill, diffusing a drooling flavour that accompanied the entertaining tunes played through the Bluetooth speaker – 30ish people were swallowing cans of beer like they were nuts.
And sure thing, they were really nuts!

Among the number of countries that showed up on that day, I can recall Spain, Brazil, Austria, Germany, Peru, Slovakia, Italy and, well well well, England. Yes, one of the sophisticated Britons had honoured us with his presence. And whether it was for the alcohol making them sociable or the folks there just being naturally friendly, all went along with each other – judging by the loud Spanish-blasted laughter and the Italians-led group dancing.

You know London itself is practically a huge bbq – a place where different types of meats are cooked on the same irons creating a unique taste.

With a closer look though, I realised that we strangers were the ones who were grouping up per country/language, setting the others aside. The English dude instead was the only one who was ping-ponging from group to group to socialise with everybody.

Wait a minute.
We often talk about Brexit, about being left apart from a number of Britons who are segregating us for being immigrants. Whereas, sometimes I feel like it’s us who are exiting them – taking ownership of a space that doesn’t belong to us and we should appreciate more, and not being excluding individuals who are giving us the opportunity to remain.

So while I was totally zoned out having this random thought, I turned towards him and he was sitting there choking himself with a stripe of steak he hadn’t cut.

“Oh, dude, I can’t take you anywhere.”

Jim
The Britalian Post

Comprehension is hard

Comprehension is hard.

Even if you’re good at languages and speak one regularly, you will never own it as much as a native does, and will always experience some issues when trying to express yourself or understand what others are saying.

Simply said: you suck!

I remember the time I started watching the first episode of Game of Thrones and how weird it felt when I realised I couldn’t catch a damn thing. So I sat in front of the tv to pay more attention and began to wonder if they were using some of those made-up languages like in The Lord of the Rings.

After a few lines, I started grasping a couple of random words here and there and…of course it‘s English, you ignorant dickhead! Given so, I put subtitles on and dialogues became much clearer. More or less.

That made me think about how freaking awesome would it be if all people spoke with subtitles. Can you picture it? Like, when somebody’s talking, you actually see these words in white that flow right above the chest. Can you imagine how everything would just be easier? Communicating would be so simple, misunderstandings and awkward moments would no longer happen. Above all, you’d always know what to say back; even better, you’d always have something to say.

However, when you have subtitles, you tend to focus more on the reading rather than on the listening, more on the words than on what one’s seeking to express.

She wouldn’t get you wanted more than just screw her – you know…guys with their perverse mind, right?! Yet, when you told her you loved her, just right there by the river, when the night was over and you were drying her teardrops with your fingertips, she wouldn’t know what to say back.

“I…I don’t understand…”
“Punch me or run away!”

So she left.
But she didn’t turn her back, she slowly walked backwards holding your look until she disappeared behind that alley.

Sometimes, even if you say something clearly, if declaring a so ordinary and pure something should be really easy, you just end up like us when dealing with native English people. You got it: with that dumb fuck expression on! Because everybody will always focus on the meaning of the words rather than on what you’re desperately seeking to express.

That’s why we shouldn’t need subtitles. That’s why comprehension is hard.

That’s why you suck!

Jim
The Britalian Post

I wish I had a pound

One early morning at King’s Cross, on a cold and sunny day, I was pacing outside the station in a never-ending wait. A cup of hot coffee in one hand and a smoke in the other – Ed was goddamn late and I was freezing my ass out there.

There were not many people around except for me, few commuters, some guys who were setting up stands to serve food, and obviously a few bums begging for spare change. I didn’t really count how many of them were roaming about but I’m sure I must have engaged with them all. 

They started approaching me one after the other and it took me a good few mins each to understand any of the words they were trying to speak – a drunk bum’s English mumbling is not the easiest to get.

I’m sorry, I wish I had a pound.

I always feel sorry for these people – abandoned to their fates and constrained to a stunted life. They, who bravely live and survive winters in a daily search for food and, potentially, some sweet booze to warm them up and maybe help them forget some sad past story.

I remember I used to know one in my area: he was Italian, in his late 30s. He had moved to London in the mid-90s and had found his fortune working in the IT field. Unfortunately, he was too young to keep control over the unlimited resources London had given him and squandered his fortunes to his very last pound. According to his story, the government had also turned their backs on him, and his family, well, probably he didn’t even have one.

So every time I see one of them, I always recall that guy – I search my pockets for a pound and feel so guilty if I can’t find any.

I’m sorry, I wish I had a … 

Hang on a moment.

When I first came over, I didn’t even have the shadow of a pound. I lacked the language proficiency, the skills, the being comfortable in a new and different country, in a so big and alienating city. I, and so many other people just like me, had to find my way in: I started out washing dishes in a Moroccan restaurant at 2 quid an hour. No help, no support, nobody to speak with. I really didn’t have a pound.

Yet I made it. I worked my ass hard to a wealthy(ish) life. It cost a lot of effort and sacrifice, pain and sadness, desperation and, often, fear.

Other than me, these people were born here, they speak the language, they live in their own country. They were born with a least a pound, if not their own, one or two from the passers-by.

So I am sorry: every time I search my pockets, I myself wish I had had a pound.

Jim
The Britalian Post

Another stop goes by

One who lives in London must be prepared to spend most of the daily life travelling throughout the city. An average journey can take up to an hour and a half, so you happen to listen to artists’ complete discographies, read entire books and magazines, watch movies in HD – even countdown the days of your life! – or simply have long chats with your fellow commuters. 

Many of my journeys are spent in company of my cousin on the 341 bus route from Islington up to North London. That one is actually a pretty fast journey, a journey during which we are half of the time starving to death while the other half is dedicated to guilty feelings. Why? Obviously for the amount of food we have swallowed, not to mention the alcohol waterfalls. No objections, we are a very funny couple.

Now, as many may know, an automated bus speaker calls all the stops on the route, so that you’re always aware of when you need to get off. Also, in the very middle of the bus, and on the front windscreen on the upper deck, a screen indicates the stops as you’re approaching them along with the current hour. And that’s the salvation! 

Why is that?

When you’re not an English native, although your comprehension quickly gets to be good, rather than the speaking that requires more and more practice, you will not be totally familiar with the language and words can easily sneak out of your listening.

So here we are, sitting at the first seats at the entering doors, no screen. The voice calls the next stop and here’s what we hear:

Br/$#%y!@”3d Road

Puzzled expressions on our faces! Both witlessly disoriented: Br/$#…WHAT?!

(Yes, so lost in translation… See the connection with the blog’s title?! No, no, just in case some of you haven’t noticed.)

Therefore, more than often, the name of the stops that end with Road or Street seem to us to have quite the same sound. It’s like stops didn’t have a name but only a stuttering pronunciation – at least that’s what my cousin and I agreed to make life easier and feel less ignorant. So every time we hear the name of a stop or anything else we can’t clearly figure out, we just think: Br/$#%y!@”3d Road.

Honestly, took us a few weeks to catch the real name – we didn’t get it by ourselves and just saw it on the screen if you’re wondering. 

Eager to know what that actually is?! The stop is called Brownswood Road. 

I know what you folks are thinking but please bear with us poor immigrants.

And there we are, spending the time of our life in that bus talking about our daily fun and tragic facts, our love affairs gone bad, rumours from and about friends, the impossible dreams, the houses we’ll never be likely to afford in London, the travel we should be planning and, mainly, the body shape we’ll never get into.

Then stops went by as well as our journey.

And like a fictional flashback, I recall that girl. My companion of journeys on the Piccadilly line, my desk mate, an unknown foreign colleague that turned to be a friend. My friend, my chappette. And months later, in her effort to remain part of the tight team we created and hardly maintained against all odds–to still be a partner of the mutual complicity we built–she was just sent away without hesitation. For a mistake. For she was a human being. For not giving up. 

She disappeared in a finger snap and we didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

Time went by, she went by, and people quickly forgot. 

Our good morning coffees, our Paris, our tube pictures, our last teardrops, all vanished in feeble and concealed memories so that today I’m almost sure this all might have happened in my mind. And I keep asking myself…How’s she doing? Is she still loved? What’s her name? 

…Is she real?

Oh… Perhaps I just made her up. Perhaps she never existed and she’s just another stop that went by.

Jim
The Britalian Post

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