I love travel and I love seeing all the sights I can, getting to as many places I can and, most of all, meeting as many interesting people as I can. For there, in the people, I believe, lies the heart of any nation. Their little quirks, dislikes, loves, passions, the things that matter, they all vary from people to people, nation to nation and continent to continent.
Even the best of us, however can make mistakes and the last two I made were not in some far-flung place but in my favorite place on earth and the one I am probably most familiar with – London.
I was meandering, as you do, in Covent Garden, looking at goods on the stalls which run alongside the main market itself. Under the arches is a gathering of smaller, cheaper stalls which sell crystal goods, belts and leather work as well as tacky tourist items but you can often find a bargain.
I bought a beautiful back-lit crystal figure for my little niece and, as I was handing over my cash, a guy rushed up, showed a piece of paper to the guy running the stall and asked: ” What is this? Is it Hindi?” He showed a piece of card with lettering on.
“Yes”, the guy answered. It means “Beautiful Bird”.
I decided to show off and said what I thought was, ‘beautiful bird’ in Hindi. The guy with the piece of card looked amazed, smiled and went off, happy I thought.
I turned to the stall holder and said, “Hindi is a lovely language, isn’t it? So gentle to the ear”.
He replied, ” Yes, but there are several dialects and some sound harsh even to a Hindi speaker like myself”.
” Was mine OK?” I dared to ask
” Well sir, the dialect was a gentle one usually but you managed to make it harsh”, was his reply. ” Also” he added ” the word for bird can often sound like the word for bottom’, so you just told him he has a beautiful bottom”. Now, whether he was joking or not, I am not going to be speaking Hindi any time soon to anyone.
Then, yesterday I was eating at Bella Italia in Henrietta Street and had to come outside to take a ‘phone call. As I was on the ‘phone a guy came up to me and seemed to be waiting. I did not know him so continued with my call but he waited, listening I thought to my call.
When I finished I turned towards him, wanting to know what he found so interesting. He smiled at me and said my English was really really good.
” It should be, I was born here”, I replied
He grinned, smiled and then said,
” No, really, where did you learn to speak like that? Your grammar on the phone is really good and I am wanting to learn English very much”.
“But I am English”, I said, by now getting a bit perplexed.
” Come off it, I know an Italian accent when I hear it. You speak English really well but I can tell, I can tell….” he went off grinning and muttering to himself.
Mortified, and wondering if I had turned from Londoner into an Italian just because I was eating at an Italian restaurant, I turned to go back in. My phone gave another beep and I just had time to take the call before my companion would start to get fidgety so I did. I ended the call, turned round and found my new friend grinning madly at me. He was surrounded by about ten other Italians, grinning away.
” Here is someone we need to talk to. They have learned to speak English so well. Listen! Say something for us!’’
I simply did not know what to do so I made for the door of Bella Italia, relieved to find it for once, not blocked by a queue of would-be diners.
My companion was really amused when I related the tale.
“Well, he grinned. You even eat Italian”, waving his fork at our surroundings – an Italian restaurant. ” Maybe it’s catching!”
OK, I may sound like an Italian in London but honestly, I am English!!
Location: London -England