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Slow August 23, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I was just saying to B., now that you ask, how slow I am. The thing is, we’d like to do a bit of spontaneous, or even scheduled, boozing at some point this week but I haven’t been this inundated since the book of Genesis. My working methods are, admittedly, poor. I work as a translator, translating one sentence and then taking a well-deserved break before embarking upon the next one. Posh (read, professional) translators claim here and there to be able to translate 2000 words a day. I can do that, on a good day, if the text is laughably easy and in a language that’s easy to translate into English. (French, in other words.) This 2000-a-day – why have I just had a pornographic thought about cigarettes? – figure must be where posh translators also come up with the figure – fanciful to me – that we should all be earning at least 4000 euros a month. Which is nice, in theory.

So, yes, the flood. Indeed, I am antediluvian in many ways. I like to think I’m old before my time. My clothes do have a bit of a biblical look about them, now you come to mention it. “Après moi, après moi,” I’ve been shouting to a random French-speaking deity to make the most out of my flood-vocabulary. But it’s pointless trying to put it off. I am well and truly caught up in this flood. I am being rushed in a swirling torrent of work towards god knows where. I expect the journey to peak in my eventual failing strength leading to me going over the edge of a waterfall, but then, by rights, I should be rewarded richly and will hopefully land in a tranquil oasis of milk, honey and temporary unemployment. The oasis will also, mysteriously, have a glut of strapping Russian men wandering around it, doing manly things like repairing cars and stacking boxes.

But anyway…

Work does get in the way of drinking and blogging. And everything else. But fear not, B., and other potential drinking partners. Sometimes, resistance is futile and spontaneity wins the day. I temporarily dam the flood behind a switched off computer and hope it’ll hold till I get back.

I don’t know why the Protestant work ethic is so named. Or, if it is as apt as it ought to be, why Russians aren’t Protestants. Russians love work. And the horribler the better. My very own Russian adores it, especially if he can do it instead of something nice, like not working. But he too is currently being battered around against his will in a frenzied flood of labour. Luckily, Russian education makes for well-rounded folk, and although the Russian was almost ecstatic with labour, he remembered, on Monday afternoon, that life isn’t all about work. No, the physiological must be taken care of too. How long had we been cooped up at our computers? It was absolutely time to go out for a leg-stretching walk. It was 6pm.

We got in at 4 on Tuesday morning. We did walk. But we also did quite a lot of sitting. But that was justified because it’s so utterly freezing at the moment and hardly appropriate being-out weather. And I had to do a bit of smoking of hand-warming cigarettes. Arctic out there, I tell you.

Anyway, there the Russian and I sat, having a bit of horizon-broadening and character-building beer and tobacco, when who should I see at the bar but one of my first Russian teachers from a thousand years ago! I bounded up to him with a friendly, “Well, fancy that…” He looked perplexed and worried that he was being stalked. I gave him hard facts to prove my bona fides and pointed out the Russian to prove I had a life. “Brill,” I thought. “A Russian-speaking Engländer. That’s the Russian’s favourite type of foreigner.” We sat down, and got chatting. In German. In flipping German. I sat with the Russian, the Engländer, his American friend, and we had to speak Deutsch. I’m sure it was a conspiracy to keep me silent. I sat in my corner, thinking about the dam cracking under the pressure at home.

My phone rang. The beautiful friend – tbf – was in the environs. “Would you like to join us?” “Be there in five.” And in walked tbf, just as beautiful as last time we’d seen him. Resplendent in beauty. And utterly German. He switched the conversation to English. Sometimes, you’ve got to be grateful for the Germans’ complexes.

Oh god, but the work! The work! All this spontaneity’s getting me nowhere.



1. Bowleserised - August 24, 2006

Deutsch instead of Russian? No fair… But the Russian is right – scheduled work breaks are a good thing. Even if they take nine hours longer than expected. I haven’t mastered them yet.
I think “I’ll just work for five hours” then spend four hours on the internet, and get hungry. So I go out “just to buy food” and then bolt, and end up in the West somehow, buying expensive hair conditioner in KaDeWe. Some of us were not born to freelance…

2. BiB - August 24, 2006

I think no-one is born to freelance. Or, rather, everyone is born to freelance if freelancing pays a million pounds a minute so that you can rest for the next million minutes. I am so hopelessly undisciplined. Well, I’ve been to the dentist today, so can feel virtuous about that, but I don’t even feel I’m half-way through my breakfast-surf yet and it’s half eleven and I haven’t translated a single word. Not one. I must get a job at Lidl.

3. Blonde at Heart - August 24, 2006

Just wanted to report a progress on my Russian. I can read names now and all thanks to your posts on Belarus. Keep it up!

4. BiB - August 24, 2006

…and I haven’t written, to my shame, anything on Belarus for so long. Partly out of laziness, but partly, since the last elections, because it just seems so unlikely that the Lukashenka-era is soon going to end. I’ve temporarily given up hope.

Anyway, glad if the old posts help you master Cyrillic. Belarusian has a couple of letters – ў and i – which Russian does not.

5. Blonde at Heart - August 24, 2006

Do they sound like y and i in English?

6. BiB - August 24, 2006

The ў is normally transliterated as w, or as a u. The i is like Russian и, as far as I understand. So Васіль Быкаў, probably the most famous Belarusian writer of the last generation – he died in 2003, having just returned from abroad – is normally transliterated Vasil Bykau, although Bykaŭ exists too, if we want to be purists.

7. BiB - August 24, 2006

Shimon Peres was born in Belarus, by the way. In Valozhyn. It used to be a predominantly Jewish town, with a famous yeshiva. Don’t know if there’s any Jewish life left there, though. I think Valozhyn was Polish territory before the war, so I suppose Peres spoke/speaks Polish, rather than Belarusian, in addition to whatever else he spoke in childhood. (Yiddish, I suppose?)

8. Ed Ward - August 24, 2006

Are we drifting enough yet?

If you want a spontaneous excuse to flee the house, my friend Susan’s tearoom is now open, TeaRoom Berlin, and she’s just e-mailed me:

“Please come by the Tea Room on Saturday and bring as many people as possible to guzzle as much free iced tea as you can drink. We are trying to get some bodies in there on Saturday.”

She’s also, I believe, serving dim sum and English pastries, as well as the Demon Alcohol.

It’s on Marienburger Str. next to that Japanese restaurant just off Prenzlauer Allee.

Tell all your friends.

9. Blonde at Heart - August 24, 2006

Peres was not named like that when he was born in Poland (his town is nowadays in Belarus). He was named Persky but he changed it so it would sound more “Israeli”.

10. BiB - August 24, 2006

Ed, sounds like a perfect work-avoidance excuse, although I’ll have to see how high the panic-setting is at the time. Is it planned for afternoon or evening?

BAH, and Peres is Lauren Bacall, or, rather, Betty Joan Perske’s cousin.

11. lukeski - August 24, 2006

The joys of self-employment (although I do think there should be a term equivalent to onanism for this). As a wageslave, work-avoidance is less of an issue as the collective paranoia of the workplace’s secret police (of which, as a boss, I am very much part), usually ensures that you work. My days off are more of an issue, as I expend an incredible amount of time and energy finding things to do rather than the dreariness of housework or food shopping. If I were self-employed, I fear that I would be doing nothing most of the time – this will be tested next month when I dip my toe back into the (wonderful) world of translation. Ach, Gott im Himmel, having pissed around on the various Berlin-based blogs, and having got back in contact with a multitude of token Germans from my past, I’m feeling a strong urge head over – although probably not till the spring, due to the unhealthy state of my finances and my lingering memory of how grey and cold Deutschland becomes from October-April.

12. BiB - August 24, 2006

Lukeski, it’s now freezing from August to June, so come at any time. There’s a good mid-September window, between stag-event and wedding, when I’ll be here all alone, so we could be surly together and never speak a word of a foreign language. Whaddaya say?

TRANSLATION? Are you verrückt, oder wat? Surely you have had enough personal anti-recommendations from me to not even go there…

13. lukeski - August 24, 2006

September is completely out, I’m afraid – kiddibids back at school, students starting to study foreign languages at university, evening courses starting – I am as busy as pants from tomorrow till the end of October. But mail me the dates, and I’ll see what I can do… Flights are still beautifully cheap, nicht wahr… Translations of Soviet/Russian schoolbooks into English for a charity – they had wanted me to move to Osh and live as a subsistence translator – tempting, had I not been PhDing/paying bills, etc. So, I suggested they send the books back with my brother and I can e-mail the translations to them. I’ll probably hate it with a passion when it arrives, but it’s been 5-6 years since I last real translation, so…

14. BiB - August 24, 2006

You don’t mean YOUR OWN kiddibids, do you? It would have been quite an oversight to have forgotten to mention them. I suppose you mean чужих детей.

Well, that’s a good deed, translating schoolbooks into English, and should even be interesting. I’ve heard of Osh. Can’t remember whether it’s meant to be heaven or hell on earth. But surely one of the two. I know the mountains and that lake in Kyrgyzstan are meant to be heaven.

15. Ed Ward - August 25, 2006

BiB, the TeaRoom thing is “seven on,” this Saturday, Susan tells me. Spread the word: the real grand opening is a week later, but only special Kewl Ones get to know about this.

16. BiB - August 25, 2006

Ed, will desperately try to drag myself and some other stragglers along.

17. Bowleserised - August 26, 2006

I’ll be there!

18. GreatSheElephant - August 26, 2006

antediluvian? You are a mere young slip of thing, and worryingly cool with it. Pah.

19. BiB - August 26, 2006

GSE, thank you. You say the nicest things. If I didn’t have a particularly nasty cold and bout of rashy, reddy, dry skin at the moment, you could see me blush.

B., well, I’ll desperately try to string together four working minutes now and see if I can tear myself away later, but, by rights, I really should stay at home.

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