Lost in translation

The beloved and I took a speedboat ride up the Thames yesterday evening. I would heartily recommend it – it’s very exciting – but it does do interesting things to your hair. There were only six of us on the boat, plus a captain and a guide, and once we got past Tower Bridge we went super-fast, accompanied by the theme tunes from Baywatch and then James Bond. It was brilliant, and I was only a tiny bit scared.

Then we ate at Caffe’ Vergnano on the South Bank. I really like it there, but it’s somewhere I have usually gone before a film or a show, so I tend to go early and it’s always fairly empty. Last night we were there later on, and it was very busy. Halfway through our meal they seated a couple so close to us that it was nearly impossible for me to leave my seat without crashing into their table. It added an element of challenge to the evening, but it also gave us the chance to listen in to their conversation. Actually we had no choice: she was more or less completely silent, but he had a great booming voice that drowned out the sound of the trains just feet above our heads. Sadly they were speaking a language I didn’t recognise – I don’t speak many languages, but I can recognise the sound of a lot of them, and this wasn’t one I knew. It might have been Portuguese, or one of the eastern European languages that has nothing to do with Russian.

Anyway, I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed listening to him had I known what he was saying, but listening with no idea what he was talking about was great fun. He had a peculiarly mirthless laugh with which he punctuated every sentence. Because I didn’t recognise the words he was using, I have attempted to reproduce them phonetically, to give you an idea:

Amazon turquoise Lithuanian bathtub. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Malevolent projector foolproof simian pilot. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Christmas fettucine bones, bananas and bra. Ha. Ha. Ha.

It was disconcerting, but also kind of fascinating, and loud enough that it was easier for us to listen to him than attempt a conversation of our own. She sat in silence opposite him, occasionally joining in with the solemn laughter. I tried to imagine what he might be saying. The tone implied that it was probably something like

We have trapped your father in a dungeon. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. If you do not tell us where the jewels are he will die. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. We will show him no mercy. Ha. Ha. Ha.

But I think that was just the way he spoke. He was probably saying

Look at these jokers next to us. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. They are listening to me instead of having a conversation of their own. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. And they both have hair that points vertically upwards. Ha. Ha. Ha.

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