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Kitchen wisdom April 19, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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As for any son of the Soviet Union, accidental or otherwise, and my late-adopted cultural heritage is very much accidental, the kitchen has become the centre of my world. Admittedly I don’t have to turn on the kitchen taps before I’m unafraid enough to set the world to rights, but, taps or no taps, and with my captive audience of one suitably silent true son of the Soviet Union, I have now taken to middle-aged kitchen rants.

Western men of a certain age are more than happy to talk bollocks too, of course, given half the chance, but if you really want a prime example of someone holding forth, preferably on a subject they don’t necessarily know that much about, you need to get yourself a time machine and fly off to the past. To the Soviet Union. Though post-Soviet Russia will do. Or my kitchen.

This type of ranter is well represented in Dostoevsky novels, proving that even the might of the Soviet Union was not enough to quell the irrepressible Russian soul. I like Dostoevsky as much as the next wanker, but I would always groan in displeasure, and put the book down for three months until I’d forgotten my objection, when a male character would inevitably say, “This is the way I see the world and here, let me talk about it in a 75-page monologue.” Or, using an alternative literary rant device, “This is the way I see the world and here, I just happen to have written it down and someone can now read it out in a 75-page monologue while I die noisily of tuberculosis in the corner.”

Though fair play to Dosters because anyone who’s been in a Soviet or post-Soviet kitchen knows that the characterisation is perfect. The type exists. Male, of course. Ideally with the first flush of youth well behind him. Has reached the serious-dressing stage. You can’t rant in jeans. A collar. A jacket. Preferably a well-rounded belly. Principled on all matters and with strict lifestyle choices (this is where I fail the Soviet test). “Shall we knock back a quick 50g (to help me bear the remaining 25 minutes of your rant on tea), Volodia?” you might say to a ranting Vladimir who happens to have turned up in your kitchen on a wintry Tuesday evening to hold forth on tea. “Vot? Vodka? On Tuesday? I nyevyer dreenk vodka on Tuesday. Vodka make you impotyent. Beeb, khow you kyen dreenk vodka on Tuesday? Ektuelly, I karrently writink book on vodka and impotyence. Let me tsyell you about it for 35 minutes. By ze vey, I not say you kyen call me Volodia yet. Please call me Vladimir Poligrafovich.”

A good Russian rant can be entertaining, though the length can be exhausting. The subjects can be mundane, e.g. tea, or trying, e.g. why foreigners are cunts. Jews are good Russian rant-grist. From how they don’t exist. I’ve been at that rant. To how they don’t eat meat, which is why they’re weak, which rant took place in the very room I type from, by an exiled Soviet ranter, and which has been mentioned before, who went on to rant further that the Estonians and Ukrainians were also cunts. And then took me to the map of Europe on the hall wall and, making a compass of his thumb and index finger, showed me how far into Russia NATO missiles would reach when NATO, inevitably, started bombing Russia any second now. (Coincidentally, the range was the exact same distance as the largest part-circle his thumb-and-index-finger compass could draw.)

And by the queerest twists of geopolitical and romantic fates, I have become the first queer, post-Soviet, non-Soviet ranter. It’s the Russian passing his unwanted rant genes on to me, while I have generously donated my empty western soul to him. While I rant, he online-shops. While I hold forth on Ukraine being further along the road to democracy and manage to blame the (considering-itself-)Russian population in eastern Ukraine for all the country’s ills, the Russian smiles a smile combining pity and magnanimity in superiority and thinks of holidays. While I spout that theists should stop thinking they’re important enough to deserve a god and that we’re just fleas. That we’re no different from fleas. No, we don’t deserve a god – drink can feature on these occasions – the Russian will briefly be shuddered awake by the more preposterous aspects of my russorant – “What? Actual fleas?” – before returning to an IKEA-reverie.

But I’m thinking if I can just youngen up my wardrobe there might be hope for me yet.

Comments»

1. zoeleon - April 20, 2008

Yes, thanks BiB for this opportunity because I’d like to launch into a weather rant. I have Berlin & Madrid weather bookmarked to quickly switch between the two. Over the last 36 hours they been running neck & neck for temperature/wind chill. However this morning, it’s 10° (with wind chill, 8°) in BERLIN and 7°/3° in MADRID.

I left all my warm weather clothes in Berlin and have now spent half of my nearly 3 weeks in Madrid shivering under 3 layers of the thin sweaters I brought here. GRRRR. It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

2. BiB - April 20, 2008

Zoeleon, it’s all wrong. We popped out yesterday for an execrable dinner and it was so freezing by the time we left the execrable restaurant – I actually noted down on an envelope some of the awful songs it played the awful instrumental, muzak versions of – that we dashed straight home because I couldn’t bear the waiting-around-on-the-street bit while we decided where to go next.

Now tell me, are you folks who wordpress-comment without linking to your own sites being deliberately mysterious and not wanting people to know you have a blog of your own or am I allowed to edit your details in?

3. Liukchik - April 20, 2008

It is also appallingly freezing here. My kitchen is too small for a dusha-laden rant, but the dining table has seen action along these lines. We have to make do you know – it is as close as we soulless Westerners can ever hope to get to the glory of a (post-)socialist kitchen. Anyway, back to purchasing trinkets and car insurance online.

4. BiB - April 20, 2008

Liukchik, do you have a car? You’ll be telling me you have a beard next. Or a family.

Size is no obstacle to a rant. Though it could, I agree, affect the size of your audience. Do you remember my St. Petersburg kitchen? It could accommodate half of Russia at a push.

5. Liukchik - April 20, 2008

My nephew is off to Beijing to uni for a year and is looking to get rid of his car for free. If I can get a decent quote for insurance, I may take him up on the offer. No beard or family so far.

But the table must be in the kitchen for authenticity. And it should be 10cm too short for two adults to sit comfortably next to each other. And there should, of course, be the remnants of zakuski, possibly a jar of gherkins/pickles, bread, cheese and onion, vodka/beer/red wine, well-used ashtrays, and possibly a pipe for added bohemian effect. And, of course, the rant must balloon from either the most innocuous comment, or simply descend from nowhere, or be entirely unrelated to anything that has preceded it all evening.

6. BiB - April 20, 2008

Liukchik, your table description has got me hungry, wistful, gagging for a drink and longing for a fag all in one succinct go. Though I have never smoked a pipe and, alas, suppose I now never will.

We do sometimes linger lovingly at the Russian section in supermarkets. The Russian has embarrassing public orgasms at the buckwheat, which I can’t have an emotion about, but the jars bring a lump to my throat. But they all cost just a bit too much to buy too often, or too readily. I mean, I want the mushed-up aubergines/solianka/borsch in a jar as much as any healthy, sane person would, but more than 3 euros! Enough to make me do a supermarket rant, but then I think they are rightly left to my mother.

7. Liukchik - April 20, 2008

Can you not just buy the Polish stuff – it must be cheap in Lidl or somewhere similar – the Tesco value stuff here has the whole sweep of Central European languages, and in Ealing at least they also stock masses of imported Polski produkty. Or are they that removed from Russian foodstuffs?

8. Liukchik - April 20, 2008

I think there is a book to be written on the “The detritus of the Russian soul” or something similar?

9. BiB - April 20, 2008

There was that Энциклопедия русской души (The Encyclopedia of the Russian Soul) which I bought but lost before I could finish reading and I’ve got a feeling you might have toyed with it too. Don’t know if it deals with the soul’s detritus. I do seem to remember it making the odd side-swipe at Jews, funnily enough.

There is a newish Polish shop not that far from here, though Poles don’t have nearly the same social significance here as they do in the UK, even if the border is only a hop, skip and a jump away. I should go and explore. The shelves of the Russian shops here are normally so sparse I wonder if they’re trying to recreate the homeland just a bit too authentically well.

Lidl is out of my life. I manlily said to the Russian at some point, perhaps mid-rant, “Darling, we’re not going to Lidl any more,” and we haven’t been since. Edeka and Rewe are our locals. Plus Lidl is associated – though this should mean good rather than bad, really – with when we were so poor and only had stock cubes and onions to eat and the Russian realised he had 58 cents on his bank account which would get us two packets of Lidl spaghetti. He paid by card. Those were the days, eh? That pasta was the best thing I’ve ever fucking tasted.

Having farted around for days avoiding work because the text was in a shitty format and that made using translation software difficult, I have just worked out a convoluted way of reformatting it and the clouds of the last days have lifted. Still, it means I have 800 days to work to complete by Friday.

Sorry, do you mind if I just free-associate to you all day?

10. emeline - April 20, 2008

Lidl sells the cheapest products but the most disgusting too; I mean, most of them.

11. BiB - April 20, 2008

Emeline, I must say my life feels greatly improved since I took Lidl out of the equation. Though maybe Lidl will improve. They’ve got machines to suck your bottles off you now rather than you having to bother with a much too human transaction with the till-person as things were before.

I remember chatting to a funny local guy I met at a party once. Oddly, the conversation turned to Lidl. He could tolerate it but was livid that the design meant that if you weaved your way up and down each aisle loyally, you were at the wrong end of the shop for the tills when you reached the top of the last aisle. Don’t know if there was a geometric solution at all.

12. Liukchik - April 20, 2008

Aha. I am farting around avoiding not doing work. If that is possible. I should be doing my Czech homework or guitar practice or finishing the rather delightful Zivkovic novel I am reading at the moment or listening to music or watching a DVD. But I am sitting here with Sky Sports news in the background (how lazy is that – I cannot even be bothered to change the ambient sounds in my flat) and vaguely pondering the plants and whether I should hoover and so on and so on. And gazing into space or out of the window.

Lidl is simply too far out of my way (always has been), but every shop round here is pack to the rafters with Polish food – in fact “Polski sklep” may have overtaken “Lech Walesa” or “Solidarnosc” as the one Polish thing most Brits know.

I apologise for my complete lack of diacritics. In general.

13. d.z.bodenberg - April 20, 2008

he Russian realised he had 58 cents on his bank account which would get us two packets of Lidl spaghetti.

Those were indeed the days, weren’t they. It seems like an age ago, but it was probably just this time last year, before the Chinese (I presume) started stealing the white man’s spaghetti – or is it now the Indians, cheekily wanting to eat more than one spoonful of rice a day (Merkel), and even have enough money to do so? How long before the milk/spaghetti/Tibet/copyright real, genuine war including nasty, nasty weapons with China? I reckon 10 years at the longest.

Haven’t most of teh Poles buggered off back to Gdansk or somewhere as they realised how shit England actually is (and the lack of labour at home pushed up the wages a bit to attract them back)?

14. d.z.bodenberg - April 20, 2008

how shit England actually is

by this I mean “Crewe, Dagenham, Stoke” and the other places they ended up in, and the associated industries. There are nice bits of England. I wish I’d lived any where near them.

15. BiB - April 21, 2008

d.z., I can only repeat my eAsyjEtonomics survey findings and say that on flights between Berlin and “London,” Polish accents are now a thing of the past. I saw a nice documentary on Polish TV here about Poles who’ve gone to the UK and stayed and how their children are getting on at school. Lots of anguished parents looked on as their children said, “School was much harder in Poland. The children weren’t very nice to me here at first but now it’s better.” And I haven’t explored, in my feeble way, the whole bio-fuels debate enough to take much of a view, but is this a green measure that we should be against, then? If (this type of) green fuel has people going hungry as a by-product, well, that’s rather shit, isn’t it? Or does the fact that China/India/Brazil are getting richer – the cheek! – mean production prices of everything (food/manufacturing) will go up even if we stop using wheat for fuel? Am I meant to have a view on China not allowing its currency to float?

Liukchik, right, send me a photo proving you don’t have a beard. What ARE all these new undertakings? Guitar! You never used to play guitar, did you? (Though I have noticed that every male youth I ever come across in the UK can now play. Even if they play nicely, I’m happier when they stop. Especially as it’s always a bloody electric bastard.) OK, I knew about the Czech. Don’t know Zivkovic, with or without the diacritics, and initial googling has only brought up a footballer. And I occasionally allow the TV to diffuse Sky News to make me feel as if I am in the UK. All that straightened hair and local news. I switch off and smugly feel (for about ten seconds) that I have done the right thing in emigrating.

16. d.z. bodenberg - April 21, 2008

I’ve been considering learning Czech for a while, particuarly as the place can be reached very easily by train (with a genuine *affordable*! restaurant car) from here. It’s not Russian, but I could get the chance to practice it a bit, even for, say, a weekend. Not as exotic, obviously, but a start. Or should I learn Romanian?

Apart from Poles returning/staying in Britain, there is a national fig roll crisis in the UK, due to some Turkish wasp not pollenating the figs properly due to heatstroke. Very important news. But sod Waitrose in Staines, every poxy little Turkish-run Spätverkauf has loads of em. Stick that in your “major food news column” and smoke, it Guardian.co.uk front-page monkey.

Just wanted to get that off my chest. And go and buy some.

17. IsarSteve - April 21, 2008

DZ
Why don’t you just try and forget England..?
My BskyB receiver died in December and since then I’ve got my connection to the UK right down to listening to the Archers every day, as well as listening to the 8AM News on my PC (how quaint AM & PM is). I just can’t bear listening to Question Time any more.. and I can honestly say, I feel better for it.
I always get my figs at the turkish street market in Schöneberg, not mention the “real” Turkish delight.. dee-lish…..
Oh and by the way, do you all still have dormant Bank accounts in the UK? Old post office books, building societies etc.? Well you can hunt them out at this address
http://www.bba.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=144
because if you don’t, Alastair Darling wants to get his hands on them quite soon..
wow.. the sun’s out today.. aint it great..?

18. BiB - April 21, 2008

Isar, the sun is beating down gloriously on the houses across the street whilst I am bathed in external and internal gloom. Only joking (sort of), but too busy earning an honest crust to go out and enjoy it. Though I am thinking of treating myself to a solo trip to the supermarket. I fantasised for thirteen seconds that I had dormant bank accounts in the UK but gave up when I got to the first form on the website.

DZ, and some people want to let this country into the EU! A country whose wasps don’t even behave! Yes, learn Czech. An easier option on the travel/practice front, though, I’m sure, no easier on the grammar front. (Polish was more irregular than Russian. Don’t know where Czech fits in on the scale.) Romania and I don’t have a relationship, though maybe I should begin stalking it as with all those Carpathian mountains and Orthodox churches and, my god, but did you see (again) Ceausescu’s monstrosity at the NATO summit, it’s bound to be wonderful. The language should be a relative piece of piss too (although I think cases have survived) (but cases are fun). I do have a pal from Moldova here and he is very much a Romania-is-wonderful kinda guy. Ethnic braazers and all that.

19. Curious « The diary of a disenfranchised bookseller - April 21, 2008

[…] 21 04 2008 I mentioned car insurance in passing over at BIB just yesterday. Today I have masses of spam comments related to “auto insurance”. […]

20. bowleserised - April 22, 2008

Now I want fig rolls. And to re-discover my “Colloquial Romanian” tapes. I’ve forgotten all the phrases I did know, but the memory of it as a beautiful language lingers on.

21. d.z. bodenberg - April 22, 2008

I bought two packets yesterday at my local Spätverkauf. Should I try and sell 1 of them for 20 quid on ebay.co.uk? (Incidentally, they were the last 2 packets in the shop…)

22. bowleserised - April 22, 2008

You’re like the Flash Harry of baked goods.

23. Sylvia - April 22, 2008

Well, I still go to Lidl. I’m also on their mailing list for the weekly specials – always good for a laugh and occasionally very useful.

I waste so much of my life shopping. Waitrose for meat, Lidl for cheapies, Iceland for peas and other frozen veg, and Sainsburys for the rest. My trolley certainly gets around!

I need advice. A lifetime ago, I learned Russian for 2 years at Uni, even managing a month in Leningrad staying at the Carlton hotel! The people I met there moved to the US soon after and when we meet can’t even remember the landmarks I can, which shows how far they’ve moved on!
I cannot remember a word. I bought some BBC tapes years ago, and haven’t even opened the box. What shall I do? Give them to the charity shop, or pull my finger out and listen to them?
What do you suggest? Such a shame to let it go after all that effort, especially on the part of the poor souls who had to teach me!
Your advice would be helpful.
Oh, and thanks for the link to youtube re Bulgarian singer – very funny. And she still sings better than me!

24. BiB - April 22, 2008

Sylvia, I’d say unpack ’em and listen. My enthusiasm for new languages has dwindled, but my passion for ones I’ve been intimate with in the past lingers. And you’ll be surprised at how much of the knowledge is still lurking in your head. I think the brain must keep the knowledge on standby, rather than deleting it altogether. And if you have a little listenette and feel a great urge to throw the tape-recorder at the wall, then put the tapes nicely back in the box and give them to the charity shop, who surely won’t mind too much that the seal’s been broken… But how can you call shopping time wasted? It’s my only hobby. Not recreational shopping. Food-shopping. I adore it. Even if I do buy exactly the same stuff over and over, having set out to buy something new each time. Still psyching myself up to splash out 16 euros on a huge, fuck-off pack of prawns at Edeka (Spar as was). Will send everyone a telegram when I do.

B., I ordered a whole load of teach-yourself-such-and-such-a-language or Linguaphone or Linguatec sets when a nipper. Only really pursued Spanish that way. Can’t remember what else I flirted with. Chinese and Serbo-Croat, but only in book form, and only from the library, which were returned unread 800 years late when my parents sold the house to pay the fine. Anyway, we have German to be going on with.

d.z., yes, go on. Except presumably they’d go for much more than 20 quid. And you could become an e-bay story, like the person who sold the bucket of water for 80 billion tugriks (14p). I haven’t had a fig roll in 25 years I reckon. But I’m having flashbacks to an old aunt (PBUH) who used to come and visit with a massive fuck-off shopping bag of pure sugar, which she would never declare was sweeties for us kiddywinks, and she’d leave, through the green channel, if you don’t mind, and hardly would the front door have clicked closed than we young’uns would have ravaged the bag and demolished its contents. Fig rolls definitely featured. As did those fluffy pink Kimberley biscuits. And Jamaica ginger cake. My god, I might have to have a cup of tea with milk.

25. d.z. bodenberg - April 22, 2008

Hmm, ginger cake.

26. BiB - April 23, 2008

d.z., are you going to swap your fig millions for imported Jamaica ginger cake? Maybe, as you’re just getting used to your fig millions, you could have an especially decadent and debauched party where Jamaican ladies (in bikinis, natch) serve us (I’m assuming you’re going to invite me) Jamaica ginger cake and champagne and there’ll be a swimming pool full of Jamaica ginger cake and… um, sorry, I’ve run out of Jamaica ginger cake party ideas.

27. narrowback - April 23, 2008

I always thought the kitchen table as the center of the social world was more of a class issue than one of national origin. At least in the states anyway.I’m not suitably familiar with foreign domestic customs/habits to render an opinion.

pleite you surely don’t strike me as being ready to join the grumpy ol’ men around the cracker barrel just yet…(a fading iconic image from the rural US). lord knows, i deal with the type(s) often enough on the job to be familiar with the type… in fact I have to face a mob of them in about 20 minutes and sit and listen to them pontificate for three hours on topics completely unrelated to the issue we’re actually supposed to be discussing.

the only thing that is keeping me from chucking it all and moving to the country to raise chickens is the prospect of a three week absence from the job in the very, very near future… mental visualization of a tall german beer seems to work wonders

28. BiB - April 23, 2008

Don’t worry Narrowback. So far, it is only the lucky Russian who gets to hear me spout bollocks. Vodka used to make me hold forth to all and sundry, whether our acquaintance was intimate or not – Liukchik can confirm – but my vodka days are, thank fuck, long behind me.

I’m already training my drinking arm for when you arrive.

29. narrowback - April 23, 2008

more power to your elbow

30. Liukchik - April 23, 2008

I can confirm BIB has drunk vodka in my presence.

31. bowleserised - April 23, 2008

Narrowback – in that case we’ve gone full circle, because nowadays all giant, posh houses come with giant, posh kitchens including tables and breakfast bars and what-have-you.

I’ve got a sofa in my kitchen. But then again it’s supposed to be a “Wohnkueche”. It’s not very posh, but by London standards it’s reasonably sized.

32. narrowback - April 23, 2008

its not only the posh places that have those types of kitchens…nowadays in the states even the tiniest contemporary house/condo.apartment has an “open” kitchen…even my 700 sq. ft. “box of air”…

that’s not, however, the picture conjured for me up by BiB’s opening lines which is closer to my tenement childhood & virtually all of the kitchens I’ve gotten drunk in

33. Mr D - April 23, 2008

Hot and sunny here!

I’ve avoided Lidl since last July, and my life has been so much better for it.

I don’t need a kitchen to spout nonsense. I’m starting to wonder if I might have been bitten (entered?) by a tick at some stage, such is the confused middle of my stream-of-conscienceness (is that the right word?) talking. Or perhaps it’s a lack of sleep.

I’m sure I was going to write more, but my brain won’t allow me to remember what.

Did I mention how hot and sunny it is here? I’m only in a thin shirt, I am. Well, with trousers and so on. Not quite hot enough for shorts yet.

Oh yes, teach yourself language books. My main hobby in my ore-teens and teens. I had quite a collection, covering much of Europe. I used to read the introduction and the pronunciation guide, work on the first few units, skim the rest, and then move on.

34. Mr D - April 23, 2008

muddle, not middle.

pre-teens, not ore-teens.

Written on my phone on the train and not proofread.

35. sylvia - April 23, 2008

thanks for the advice re Russian tapes -will give it a go!
Went to Lidl this pm and for £15.05p got the following:
double pack of tissues
2 packs of pocket tissues
5 bags mixed frozen veg
2 mozzarella balls
salad cheese
loaf fruit bread
and some other stuff I can’t remember.

As I hurled my stuff on the conveyor, a woman in front made some comment in Italian to her companion about me doing this – had to keep straight face although think companion realised I’d understood…. the perils of being in a multicultural city like London – chances are that you WILL be overheard by someone when making comments about other people!

36. d.z. bodenberg - April 24, 2008

I once watched “Nigella Express”* or whatever it’s called (like a quick cookery programme featuring Nigella Lawson in a massive kitchen and even larger fridge (or the other way round) saying things like “it’s very easy, you just bung the meat into a carrier bag with some honey overnight and the next day people think you’re a proper cook, and now I can save time by walking along the bank of the Thames with my children because I’m just so very cool (cue 5 minutes of music and accompaning Thames-side shots). Oh yes, and I serve the meat with oven chips, and if you don’t like meat, why not try fishcakes (no, not that bit).”) – anyway she made a trifle out of basically some squished up ginger cake covered in sherry and some whipped cream. All her media friends in her kitchen were well impressed, like.

37. bowleserised - April 24, 2008

Sylvia, how could you resist saying “HO CAPITO T U T T O” in ominous tones. I always want to do that. Sort of had the chance to do it here with some English yobs. But Italian would be even more gratifying.

38. BiB - April 25, 2008

B., I like those stories. My sister did it once in Spain, where she lived. Overheard the spiel about cheap English sluts, or something, and she pointed out she understood. And then they probably repeated their accusation. No, they didn’t. They were very apologetic.

d.z., her trifle sounds good. And I could imagine ginger cake being rather good moistened with booze. Though I think booze in deserts is often overdone. I might now rifle through youtube and look for five minutes of Thames-side shots. Sounds lovely.

Sylvia, £15.05? £15.05! You could have had a whole sturgeon for that in Berlin. And two bottles of wine. And sausages in a jar. And a six-pack of beer (in bottles). And all the tissues you could ask for. Ma, perché tanti fazzoletti (this Italian was brought to you using online language resources)? Is your clan ailing?

Mr D, no problemo, and middle worked nicely too. So can you now speak every language in Europe? Did you just stick to national ones or did you allow yourself to go even obscurer, like Occitan and Basque? Or Welsh?

Narrowback, I have tried to remember my humble imperial roots and work out how big 700 sq. ft. is and can only conclude, regardless of whatever scenario I play out on my calculator, that you live in something slightly larger than the Palast der Republik. Is this so?

Liukchik, glad to see that the demon booze hasn’t yet destroyed all my cherished memories. Let us never drink like that again.

39. Mr D - April 25, 2008

No Occitan or Basque. Had a Welsh book, but not the one in the Hodder and Stoughton (or, later, Colloquial) series. Can’t remember much beyond pedwar and pump. (‘Four’ and ‘five’ – and pump is pronounced like pimp!) Bore da, too.

My Teach Yourself books ranged from Modern Greek to Scottish Gaelic (“there is an eagle on the moor today”, I remember learning), Portuguese to Finnish, Romanian to Icelandic, and the main languages in-between – with the exception of the Slavonic languages, which I didn’t glance at until I needed to.

40. BiB - April 25, 2008

Good lord. Excellent language nerdery. Can you still trot a good many of them out when required? Truly starting a new language in my 30s has been a humbling and sobering experience. The binding on the language-learning books I can see to my left this second – Belarusian, Polish, German, Finnish (plus some Chinese tapes) – is very, very unlikely to come undone indeed.

41. Mr D - April 25, 2008

I was mainly interested in their phonology and syntax. After looking at some basic vocab I tended to get bored and then move onto the next language. So I can’t say much, but at least I can pronounce it right!

Nowadays I spend too much time drinking, smoking, sleeping, watching TV, blogging and, alas, working to pursue such a hobby actively.

Would Belarussian be confusing for you?

42. narrowback - April 25, 2008

God BiB, what do you take me for? 700 sq. ft. works out to a smidge more than 65 square meters. Most Berlin apartments I’ve been in look like a football pitch in comparison.

43. BiB - April 25, 2008

Narrowback, dang, I must have been mixing up my division and multiplication signs somewhere. So square feet to square metres isn’t one of those double-it-and-add-fifty ones? And I don’t know if my calculator does square roots. My very first really-really-mine (though rented, obv) pad was in Paris. It was 17 or 18m. And probably cost more, 13 years ago, than what I have here (which is a good few metres more).

Mr D, if I were to pursue it more seriously, it probably would be. But then it would be perfectly acceptable, in the day-to-day, to russify your Belarusian. Russian’s spoken more commonly anyway and often those who do speak Belarusian use a hybrid of the two. And you’d be hard pushed to find a Belarusian-speaker who didn’t also know Russian (except perhaps in north-eastern Poland).

44. Mr D - April 26, 2008

Interesting! I think I’ve only ever taught one Belarusian, but she was a beginner so I couldn’t pick her brain about very much.

45. BiB - April 28, 2008

I was out with a Belarusian pal last night and he will happily describe himself as Belarusian or Russian, as if he sees Belarus as nothing more, culturally, than a unit of russianness. Such a shame I can’t share my stealth Belarusian nationalism with the one Belarusian I know. (Though he’s now German and needs a visa to visit his home town!)


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