Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Lost in Translation

Sometimes when the phone rings I feel a little apprehensive.

Aimee has been known to stalk us once in a while, and when she's crying I can't help but try and help her.

Yesterday afternoon I was right to feel nervous.

"Oi Elise, como você é? parabéns!"

Oh shit! It was Solicitor's grandmother. She doesn't speak English and I don't speak Portugese. I could attempt to get by in Spanish.

"Hola, estoy bien. Cómo es usted?"

"Sou tão feliz para você. Depois que tudo que você foi por, merece alguma felicidade."

Um. What the fuck?

It's so much easier to communicate when you're in front of the person. You can get by on nods and hand gestures. How the hell was I supposed to do it over the phone?

"Um, hang on one second. Un momento."

I ran to the book shelve with the cordless phone and pulled open the Portugese dictionary.

I always see people in films getting by with a dictionary. That is a complete lie! I had no idea how to begin. Do I attempt to translate and then find a translation for my answer? That would take too long.

I pulled out my mobile and called Solicitor.

"You have to help me!" I whispered urgently. "I don't understand a word your grandmother is saying."

"She's there with you?" Solicitor sounded shocked.

Avó can barely walk. She's 4 foot nothing with extremely frail bones.

"She's on the phone!"

"Tell her you'll call her back. We'll speak to her when I get home."

"Okay. How?"

"Say 'Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite?'"

I lifted the cordless

"Hello! Um Hola!"

"Olá. Costas bem-vindas. Onde foi?"

I lifted my mobile.

"She said 'Onde foi'?"

"Elise, just repeat what I said. I haven't got time to translate a female gossiping session."

"Okay. What did you say again?"

"Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite."

I lifted the cordless.

"Avó, Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite?"

"Naturalmente você pode telefonar me mais tarde. Acabo de querer felicitá-lo, mas esperarei até que meu neto volta para casa. Será melhor se traduz."

I lifted my mobile.

"She said 'se traduz'?"

Solicitor breathed in frustration.

"I've got a meeting in ten minutes. Say goodbye to her and I'll call her later."

He hung up on me! I lifted the cordless. All I have to do is say goodbye. Without sounding like a complete idiot.

"Hola Avó. Um. Hablaré con usted pronto. Adiós?"

"Tá bom. Falarei a você mais tarde. Tome cuidado. Bye."

Yes! I said goodbye without any help! Okay, it was in Spanish, but she obviously understood me.

I really should read the Portugese books that I bought. But to be fair, Solicitor's grandmother is the only one in his whole family that doesn't speak English.

They're all pretty fluent in their mother tongue though. Sometimes they all chatter in a mix of both English and Portugese. They flick between to two with ease, I'm almost jealous at times.

Grandmama used to tell me to learn other languages when I was growing up. I learnt the basics of French and Spanish. French, because Grandmama (and my mother) are originally from France, and Spanish because of my father. But I didn't learn them fluently. I speak enough to get by; "Can I get a taxi?" "I live in a semi-detached house." "How much is that red dress?"

After yesterday I have a new-found project. I am going to learn to speak Portugese fluently. I am also going to brush up on my French and Spanish.

I also want to learn Japanese. You never know when you'll need to use it.

Oh, and German. German is a good language to learn.

And Polish. There are lots of Polish people in London now. It'll help if I know what they're saying.

Okay, I'm going to need to prioritise. In order of importance:
Spanish (French and Spanish will be easy to brush up on, so really it won't take too long)
Japanese (in case I want to do business in Japan, which could happen)
German (good because... well its just good to know)
Polish (I want to get a new kitchen fitted soon)
Greek (I have a friend who lives in Cyprus. The last time I visited her the gardener was talking to me. He could have been chatting me up. Or he could have been asking me what I think of the new potatoes)

Maybe I should switch German and Polish. I'm more likely to need Polish before German right?

Right. I'm going to start. Tomorrow.

Not Tomorrow. Monday. Yes, Monday.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Gifts: Three from Stoner, One from Solicitor

Stoner came over on Friday night. Bearing gifts.

He brought an eighth, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a phone number.

I don't smoke weed, unless I'm in Amsterdam (three times a year). Stoner smokes all the time, and on Friday he strongly believed I should get stoned and drunk. I politely refused the green and graciously accepted the Jack Daniels.

Solicitor, Stoner and I filled our glasses and ordered pizza. It was nice of them to do that. Stoner's not the type to display too much sympathy, he helps by being normal. We set up ludo and ended up playing for hours.

At around 11 Stoner picked up his phone and made a call. He spoke briefly before handing me the phone.

It was Gay Boss! I couldn't believe it. He'd disappeared off the planet and I hadn't spoken to him in months. Just hearing his voice made me laugh. He's the most sarcastic, cynical person on the face of the earth.

"What have you gone and done, Elise? I leave the country for a few months and you go and fuck up like that."

If any other person said what he said I would have cried. Instead I smiled and asked him where he was. He's in Miami. Not exactly his normal travelling destination.

"It's a different world out hear. I've never seen so many plastic people in my life. It's like walking into the Barbie mansion."

"You'd know wouldn't you? I thought you were in China."

"I was. I got bored."


"Yeah, the girl I was travelling with got yellow fever."

"Excuse me?!"

"Her words. She said she's got a bad case of yellow fever. Can't stop getting off on chinks."

Only Gay Boss can deliver a line like that with utmost seriousness.

"Decided to pack up and leave so she could move Wong in. Felt like a change anyway. Got bored of eating noodles and cat."

"You should have come home."

"Why? I like it here. I've already made five people cry."

"Wow. You're lagging behind."

"Five people, today."


"It's too easy. These people really take things personally. This one woman asked me if I was a football hooligan. I asked her if she was trying to look like a plastic slag. I think I might have upset her."

"She should have asked you if you like being a prick."

"I didn't mean to hurt her. I was genuinely interested. She didn't even bother to answer the question."

Gay Boss is seriously dry and deadpan. Most people cry around him.

We spoke for about half an hour. He spoke about himself. And I appreciated that. The last thing I wanted was to talk about it.

Stoner didn't stay long afterwards. He called a cab and left at around midnight. I sat on the sofa with Solicitor leaning on his shoulder. I felt pretty tipsy.

"I need to air out the house." I groaned. "It smells like weed."

"You need to start talking." Solicitor said back.

I slipped down and rested my head on his lap. He absently stroked my hair behind my ears. I love people playing with my hair, I find it so relaxing. I closed my eyes, wanting to sleep.

"Don't sleep. Talk."

"Lets wait until tomorrow."

"That's what you said yesterday."

"Can we forget about it?"


"I want to have a baby."

To be honest I didn't even think about having another one up until I said it. I opened my eyes, partly in surprise and partly because I wanted to see Solicitor's reaction.

He looked uncertain.

"We can't replace what we lost." He said finally. "Heal first."

"You don't want another one." I couldn't help feeling hurt about it. He was so happy when I told him I was pregnant. Maybe he didn't think he could trust me to look after another one. That I wasn't worthy.

"I want children with you. But not like this. Wait a little. We have other things to do."

"Like what? What else is there to do?"

My eyes filled with tears. I wasn't pregnant for too long, but already my world had changed. I couldn't imagine not having a baby on the way.

"Elise, I want us to get married first."

It wasn't the first time we spoke about marriage. We always assumed we'd always be together. But there was something different this time.

"I'm asking you to marry me."


Okay, not exactly the most romantic response, but I really needed to know. Was he asking so that we could try for another baby. Was he asking to 'heal' the pain?

"I'm asking because I love you, and I want you to be my wife. I've been planning on it for a long time."

He gently slid away from me and stood up. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a tattered little box. Inside was a beautiful engagement ring. Aside from the large diamond in the middle, it has tiny encrusted ones all the way around the band.

Solicitor's grandfather proposed to his grandmother with that very ring. It was passed to Solicitor's father, the eldest son. And I guess to was passed to Solicitor. Solicitor slid it on my finger and told me that now it belongs to me.

"You didn't give it to Aimee?"

"No. I didn't want her to have it."

I did cry then. Buckets of tears. Tears of happiness.

I imagined being proposed to in so many situations.

I thought that when Billy proposed to Mo with alphabet spaghetti, it was really sweet. Marry Me written in the middle of a plate, after they had their fish fingers. Solicitor thought I was joking when I told him that I cried when I saw it. He teased me and asked me if I secretly wish I was a working class east-ender.

The proposition in Serendipity was nice too. A large boxed gift with lots of smaller boxes. The last one containing the ring. Solicitor agreed with me. It was pretty cute.

I never wanted to be proposed to with an audience. Some people love the idea of an entire restaurant witnessing, clapping and cheering. I knew I'd hate something like that. It had to be in private.

Solicitor has always been pretty intense and passionate (I guess the Mediterranean background accounts for that). I knew that whenever he asked, if he asked, it would be amazing and I wasn't wrong.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Solicitor bought me some sunflowers today. Beautiful flowers. My favourite flowers. I love the way the flower is so open. Yellow always makes me smile.

My baby is gone and I don't know why. I keep thinking back to everything I did that day, everything I ate. I even listed the ingredients on the back of all the packages and googled the potential dangers.

Solicitor's worried. I don't mean to worry him, I just don't want to talk about it. I feel too guilty.

The day it happened was a day like any other. Solicitor was in the living room watching the evening news. The weather was so beautiful. We were going to go to the park for a walk. I went to change my shoes and go to the bathroom.

I didn't even feel any pain until I saw the blood.

I never thought it would happen. It sounds so selfish, but I truly believed that it would never happen to me.

I walked into the living. So calm. It was like it was someone else walking. I told Solicitor that I wanted to go to the hospital.

I wanted to drive. It sounds crazy, but I was so angry with him when he took the keys away from me. I didn't understand why he wouldn't let me, and I dissolved into sobs.

He's the greatest man in the world. He held me close when they told us and he never let me go.
He was upset too, I could see it in his eyes, but he stayed strong for me.

I wish he wasn't upset. It makes me feel worse knowing that he lost something too. I was supposed to look after our son, but I failed.

Its been a few days. I've spoken to lots of people. They're all very sorry. If I need anything, they're all there for me.

Grandmama spent yesterday with me. She made me hot chocolate. When I didn't drink it she poured me a whisky, my first drink in months. She packed away the baby stuff. I told her to throw it away but she said that she'd take it with her and save it for me.

Bimbo cried more than I did. I felt myself shaking when she called. I couldn't speak to her for long, it was too emotional.

Mother made me the most angry. She told me that it doesn't matter. It wasn't planned so it shouldn't be too much of a loss. I hung up on her and I refuse to speak to her.

Sister was the easiest to talk to. Misery likes company. Its a sad fact. I told her I didn't want to talk and she told me that she did. She cried because her marriage is over and I felt useful when I comforted her.

I shouldn't feel glad to hear her troubles. I love her and I truly wish she wasn't going through what she is. But she's the only one I can speak to over the phone. If she wasn't going through her own troubles I would have hung up on her too.