Sunday 27 July 2014

Life's a piece of shit/When you look at it...

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
The guests on this morning's Broadcasting House press review focused on the brighter side of life, which, given all the depressing news there's been in the past couple of weeks or so, is pretty understandable. An entertaining romp through the Sunday papers ensued (more about which later). 

I'm guessing that some of you might just be feeling the same way too, so this post will laugh and smile and dance and sing, for as the song says...
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle
- that's the thing.
The Broadcaster Formerly Known as "Mark Tully in Dehli" presented a Something Understood on the theme of 'Translation' this morning. 

To the strains of John Coltrane, we heard a list Iowa State University's Department of Linguistics and Language which shows how easy it is to make mistakes, even in simple translations. Well, it made me laugh:
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
In a Rhodes tailor's shop: Order your summer's suit because if there's a big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret you will be unbearable.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.
In a Paris hotel lift: Please leave your values at the front desk.
Detour sign in Kyushu, Japan: Stop. Drive sideways.
In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest methodists. 
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad of firm's own make. Limpid red beet soup. Cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger. Roasted duck let loose. Beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion. 
Mark Tully also read out part of the preface to the King James Bible, something so lovely that it needs passing on for those of you do not know it:
Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water...
Talking of which....

This week's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue came from Worthing. Jack Dee introduced us to the place: 
Famous as a retirement destination for gentlefolk, Worthing has a population of just over 105,000 people. Or just under, if you're listening to the repeat.
This part of Sussex is famous for producing some of England's finest white wines. We were treated to a tasting earlier at a local branch of Lidl and tried a 2011 Chardonnay which had a fine nose. Just like the pork pie that came with it.
Oddly enough, that repeat of ISIHAC from Worthing (population, just under 105,000) was followed by an edition of the Food Programme on the subject of English wine - one of the smaller triumphs of English business in recent years, becoming ever more renowned for its quality and growing in quantity, despite the occasional bad harvest. (I'm sure I read James Delingpole somewhere putting it all down to global warming, but I could be wrong about that). 

We learned that homegrown wines account for less than 1% of sales here. In my household it's 0% of all wine purchases at the moment, though in my childhood we did make potato wine - illicit stills of the heady stuff stinking out our basement. Thank God Al Capone wasn't around in Morecambe at the time! (He apparently hated potato wine).  

The growth of the English wine industry is cheering news, and it's news I feel close too as there's even a small vineyard near Morecambe (yes, really). 

If Eric Morecambe had still been around I'd have asked him to wangle me a bottle of their finest sauv blanc. I suppose I could ask Gail from Coronation Street instead. (Yes, she's from Morecambe too. All the greats come from Morecambe).

One thing we don't have in Morecambe (AFAIAA) is pygmy boa constrictors (subject of today's The Living World), a cousin of the anaconda (to which they are proportionally identical) native to - and specific to - the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. No house mouse could eat an anaconda - it's eyes would be truly bigger than its stomach if it tried - but a house mouse can, apparently, eat a pygmy boa constrictor. The p.b.c. (as I like to call it) is about 25cm long, "not more than half a little finger" according to presenter Tom Heap (though, from the looks of it, you'd have to have an abnormally long little finger!). What do they eat? Electrons? No, they eat things like new-born froglets, reef geckos and freshly-hatched lizards. Its main meal, however, is the Caicos Island round-toed gecko, whose Latin name, written down (according to local naturalist Bryan Naqqi Manco), is actually about twice as long as the lizard itself. 

Now back to ISIHAC, and some new dictionary definitions that tickled my fancy:
alter ego - a priest who's full of himself (Barry Cryer)
permits - cat-skin gloves (Graeme Garden)
tamper - what you take on a Yorkshire picnic (Barry Cryer)
shoddy - Big Ears' unkempt friend (Graeme Garden)
stifle - a home for a pig designed along the lines of a Paris landmark (Harry Hill)
gladiator - an unrepentant cannibal (Barry Cryer)
transcendental - to receive false teeth through the post from a drag act (Harry Hill)
Returning to Broadcasting House, and remembering why I don't actually hate the BBC (at least most of the time), Paddy O'Connell was in the New Forest and gave us one of those radio moments that radio listeners tend to treasure, however absurdly. The report was about some parliamentary-related fluff about the frivolous use of mobile phones, but Paddy was suddenly seized by a moment of beauty in the New Forest. 

To the entrancing accompaniment of many untalked-over recordings of the natural sounds he was hearing (running water, hoofs, ponies neighing), Paddy said (on location):
Four wild ponies are approaching the stream. The hoofs are crunching on the pebbles of this small stream, which is the colour of stewed tea. Four chestnut ponies, one, two, making their way through the stream. There's the third. They're all on the gravel now. The foal has a flash of white on his nose. It has one more to cross. Ears up, it's looking. Here we go. And there's a log across the stream and I'm going to try and cross it...scaring away two tiny fish...
He fell in. 

"The hoofs are crunching on the pebbles of this small stream, which is the colour of stewed tea." Now, that's good, isn't it? (Any passing English teachers, what would you grade that?)

BH also featured a profile of Vladimir Putin (featuring Ben Judah, European Stability Initiative; Sir Roderic Lyne, Chatham House; Lord Browne, former head of BP; and Angus Roxburgh, former PR advisor to the Russian government). It wasn't a particularly sympathetic portrait (to put it mildly), but we learned certain fascinating things about Bad Vlad (if true): 
  • He always has cottage cheese for breakfast. 
  • He once brought his dog, Connie, into a meeting with Angela Merkel, knowing that Frau Merkel is scared of dogs in order to intimidate her.
  • He rarely uses computers and the internet, preferring paper. (Safer).
  • Russian ministers have to wait for three to four hours to see him. No one dares to contradict him. 
  • His daughters are a state secret, living far from Moscow, probably abroad. 
  • He never forgets a slight, such as that by former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who (because of his height) used to call him 'LiliPutin'. (It didn't end well for Georgia).
  • When he stood next to much taller foreign leaders (like Tony Blair), he'd have the lecterns put far apart to avoid comparison.
  • He's isolated, trapped.

As Mr Putin never forgets a slight (according to this profile), a polonium-tipped umbrella might well be wending its way to Broadcasting House as we speak. 

The paper review featured booted-out Radio 5 Live presenter Shelagh Fogarty, booted-out Tory MP Giles Brandreth and unbooted-out Artistic Director of the Petworth Arts Festival Stewart Collins. 

We heard about apps relaying WW1 poet Wilfred Owen's verses (the most famous being written in hospital whilst suffering from shell-shock), which prompted Giles to read some other poetry, concerning the 4/5 of couples apparently seeking financial contributions to their weddings:
Do come to our wedding bash.
Show your love in cheques and cash.
Just use the bank details at the end of this ditty,
And you can still contribute to our kitchen kitty.
Giles, in the event of the death of a pet poet, wrote his own verse - "the shortest poem in the history of world literature":
Stewart rejoindered with a short family grace before meals:
Heavenly Pa,
Now, that's my kind of paper review!

Finally, before I down a late-evening salad full of rocket (freshly supplied by Hamas), some suggestions for titles of films like to prove popular with an audience of dog-lovers from the cast of ISIHAC:
Tales of King Arthur and his knights in 'Winalot' (Graeme Garden)
Hawaii Fi-Do (Barry Cryer)
When Harry Sniffed Sally (Tim Brooke-Taylor)
The Postman Always Tastes Nice (Barry Cryer)
Five Easy Faeces (Tim Brooke-Taylor)
Arselick and Old Lace (Barry Cryer)
Bring Me the Lead of Alfredo Garcia (Barry Cryer Graeme Garden)
Altogether now...



  1. This isn't exactly a mistranslation, more a case of confused idiom, but I'd still like to share it. In a book I edited recently, the author (whose first language was not English) referred to "the pink elephant in the room".

  2. What a joy to read.
    Forgot that this treasure of a programme was back.
    Barry Cryer is the last of the greats...he really is!
    Thanks for putting this up-will be listening Sunday!


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