Quando in Australia si andava in nave – Storie di donne migranti

Un paio d’anni fa’ ho trovato un annuncio sul giornale locale: cercasi persona interessata a leggere in italiano ai residenti di una casa di riposo. 

Dopo aver letto per anni libri italiani alle mie bambine, temevo davvero che la mia carriera di lettrice “a voce alta” fosse finita. Invece no! Ogni lunedì ci ritroviamo nel nostro salottino/biblioteca, comodamente sedute, con scialletti e copertine e ci abbandoniamo a storie di guerra e tradimento, amori e passioni, drammi e tragedie!

Queste meravigliose signore, oltre ad essere splendide ed attente ascoltatrici, hanno valigie si storie da raccontare e, puntualmente, riesco a strappare qualche ricordo. Ed e’ da qui che sorge l’idea di raccogliere questi ricordi e trascriverli. Ne parlo con la mia amica Claudia, fondatrice di Expatclic, e mi propone di scrivere un articolo per il sito.

Le mie signore sono subito entusiaste di partecipare al mio progetto ed ecco qui il risultato: QUANDO IN AUSTRALIA SI ANDAVA IN NAVE – STORIE DI DONNE MIGRANTI

Buona lettura!

 

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Discovering Melbourne, one basketball court at the time

I am not a keen driver and I don’t like sport. In particular I don’t like driving at night and sitting in cold (or very hot) venues watching people chasing a ball. How did I find myself spending all my friday nights driving around unknown outer suburbs, searching for basketball courts?

It is well known that Australians love their sports so it did not come as a surprise when my little Australian girl at the age of 8 decided to join her first basketball team. At first it all seemed pretty simple. Nigel loves his sport and he was going to look after this activity, enjoying every minute of it. For me going to the games was optional. I did sporadically attend and I loved watching my little one chasing a ball and occasionally catching it. I had no particular interest in the rules of the game although I was well aware that the aim of the game was to throw the ball in the basket. The extent of my technical knowledge ended there and I liked it that way.

Basketball champions! Their smiles makes it all worth it!

Basketball champions!

When Sofia started as well my attendance grew, but not my knowledge or my enthusiasm for the game itself. If my daughters were on the court I would try to watch but when they were on the bench I didn’t hesitate to find a welcome distraction in chatting and dreaming.

All this happened on Saturday, mainly in local courts and even though, sometimes, we had to drive further away, Nigel was always at the wheel and I did not have to pay any attention to the road. I just sat back and listen to the music.

All this changed when both girls decided to play representative basketball. I had heard of this friday night competition, where venues could be as far as Geelong (another city…on the other side of the bay…over one hour away…) but I never dwelled on it. After all my girls had some italian blood and I was confident their passion for sport wouldn’t extend to friday nights nightmarish crossing of town competitions.

As it often sometimes happens, I was wrong. They did want to play, they loved basketball, they wanted more and more. It was very simple, I had to be a good mother and step out of my comfort zone, I had to drive to unknown places at night. My basketball honey moon period was over, it was time to get serious.

Although I consider myself a pretty adaptable human being, it did take me a few seasons to adapt to my new condition but then, all of a sudden, last year, I found myself looking forward to the beginning of the season. At first I dismissed the feeling. What was I thinking? Long dark roads, wrong turns, panicked phone calls, cold stadiums…did I forget all that? But the closer we got the more excited I became.

Sof had grown into an excellent navigator, and the gps in my phone helped a lot. We still occasionally got lost, but we always allowed plenty of time for unwanted detours and, generally, we arrived to the games on time. In fact I almost enjoyed the challenge of getting somewhere far and obscure. I had learned to dress appropriately to face the arctic temperatures of some courts and to appreciate the coolness of the rare air conditioned ones, in the hot summer nights.

Once again, once I stopped fighting, I had adjusted!

What I did was look at the wider picture. Let’s face it, basketball was never going to do it! I had to dig a little deeper to be able to find pleasure in the experience.

Because Melbourne is so vast, every suburb has a distinctive character. I have enjoyed getting to a basketball court and finding myself in a different world.

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

On the road again. Week-end bb tournament, finally a bit of day driving!

Driving east, through tree lined boulevards and big victorian mansions I walk through the door and find myself surrounded by blond, tall people, wearing classy casual clothes and drinking bottled water.  A true middle class, white, Anglo-Saxon environment and it is here that I really feel like a foreigner.

Crossing the West Gate bridge we drive through big empty roads, bordered by dark factories and smoke spitting chimneys. The west is the industrial part of Melbourne and even if, somewhere out there, I know there are lovely sandy beaches, I don’t see them and I am left with the awkward feeling of being a long way from home. The stadiums are somehow more cheerful, people are louder and more boisterous. I spot ugg boots and tracksuit pants and I smell hot dogs and chips. I feel hungry and on some occasions, I surrender to temptation!

When we head north I feel more at home as I have spent most of my Melbourne life around here. The roads are familiar and I generally know where I am going, which is certainly a bonus. I like the multicultural feel in the stadiums, the accents and the diversity that makes this world less alien to me.

I analyse and observe people, I embrace different worlds, I experience stadium’s cuisine and I develop my driving skills. No wonder I haven’t had time to grasp the rules of the game and learn to score. There is more to my friday nights then basketball!

 

 

Cultural drinking

My first encounter with a group of rowdy Australians was on the ferry from Ancona to Patras in 1987. In those days my knowledge of Australian culture was inexistent and the three days spent on the deck of the ferry opened my eyes to a world of a group culture I admired and feared. Unruly games, unintelligible jokes, exuberant songs all topped with lots and lots of beer and other alcoholic concoctions. My friend and I watched from the outside but we found ourselves being drawn to this wild, new world and before we new it, we were in it. A gentle soul took us under his wing and became our educator, explaining to us, in very simple english, how Australians loved groups and drinking.

Since I started this blog I have being wanting to write about the drinking culture in Australia. The different approach to drinking definitely classifies as one of the more obvious cultural differences between Italy and Australia but I have been concerned about sounding too critical or condescending in expressing my views.

My family (and possibly my friends too) roll their eyes whenever the subject comes up and I have to admit that I have a tendency to rant about it for a little too long. So this is why I approach this subject with a bit of apprehension and I hope I will do it justice.

That ferry trip came to my mind this morning and it forced me to see the matter with different eyes. The eyes of a 22 years old, discovering a brand new world, where drinking beer meant, beside vomiting off the deck for hours and snogging strangers, a shared experience and an undeniable, if a bit superficial, sense of belonging.

Australians love to identify themselves with their passion for drinking. When I say that I don’t drink people look confused and sometimes disappointed. I used to feel the need to justify myself but lately I just let them draw their own conclusions. I might be a recovering alcoholic or an extremist teetotaller (please grant me the use of this word, ever since I’ve heard it I have been wanting to put it in a written sentence, I wouldn’t dare to pronounce  it though 😉 ), whatever they think I hope it will envelop me in an air of mystery!

The first time Nigel came to Italy we went out to a bar with a group of friends and ordered a beer. Yes…that was it…one beer. Nigel sat patiently waiting for the next round but it never came. We don’t do “rounds” in Italy.

My mum finds this love a beer quite endearing and she never fails to buy a couple of bottles whenever Nigel’s visit. I guess is her way of making him feel at home!

Last year Julia turned 18 and the first thing she did was going to the bottle shop to buy a bottle of champagne. She wanted to have the thrill of buying alcohol legally! She was a bit disappointed because she wasn’t asked for her id.

Growing up in a country where there was never any prohibition I struggle to understand her excitement. We did get drunk at parties but we didn’t have to sneak alcohol hidden in paper bags. 

Drinking is part of every celebration at the end of high school, being the celebration in the morning, afternoon or evening and after exams there is a whole week of “schoolies” when kids go away to a party and, of course, drink.

The first week of university, orientation week, is spent going to barbecues and drinking, on campus, while subscribing to different clubs where you will be able to get, amongst other things, cheap drinks.

I remember women talking dreamily about the glass of wine they will drink when they got home after our morning playgroup meetings and parents laughing amiably at their children’s 18th birthday speeches, while they talked about the great achievement of finally being able to get thrashed in pubs.

It is not uncommon to see people walking with big slabs of beer on their way to a barbecue or a picnic in the park.

From the age of 16 kids find ways to have fake IDs so they can go to pubs and clubs. Most parents know it and give their blessing. I’d like to think that some of these kids want to go to pubs and clubs to listen to bands and dance, not drink. But they can’t do it legally. 

As a 22 years old, Australians and their drinking culture might have had a certain appeal but as an adult I fail to comprehend a society that put such strong rules on drinking for minors while accepting, and on occasions even glorifying, drinking in adults. 

I conclude by saying that this is not a post about “in Italy is better because we do things different”, in fact I am not sure that, having a very different approach to alcohol, the situation is actually better in Italy. In fact I hear the problem of youth drinking is growing. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evolution of language

I am following a very interesting conversation about bilingual children on the Facebook page of Expactclic (a wonderful resource for all expat women and, possibly, men too!) and, as it often happens, it made me realise how much my perspective has changed over the years.

The discussion was started by an italian mother living abroad and wondering (and worrying a bit also) about how her daughter’s italian language and culture will develop and grow.

I remember all too well how I used to be concerned about the exact same issues and went from feelings of helplessness, about not being able to do anything about it, to guilt, for not trying to do something about it.

I knew that, inevitably, my girls were going to be Australian and english was going to be their primary language and I tried to accept this. At the same time I saw parents (with better parenting skills then mine, obviously!)who spent time after school doing italian grammar and I couldn’t help feeling inadequate and a touch guilty.

Nevertheless I did nothing about it. My girls kept talking to me in italian but I never sat down with them trying to teach them the beauty of the subjunctive or the meaning of adverbs and other little grammatical treasures.

I thought of them growing up without knowing the existence of Dante and Manzoni but never mentioned to them the existence of the Divina Commedia and I Promessi Sposi.

I guess I just wanted them the same experiences I had growing up but obviously wasn’t prepared to bring Dante back into my life and sharing it with them!

Was it laziness or was it simply not important enough for me? I imagine it was a bit of both and ultimately they grew up very well and they are caring and intelligent human beings. They can talk to their family and friends in Italy and everyone is thrilled with how they have  mastered the language. They talk in Italian to me and I love that we have this “special” language that is just ours.

I guess I’ve just stopped worrying. I am not sure when this happened exactly, when I left behind helplessness and guilt and started to see my daughters for what they are, individuals with their own experiences and stories.

They didn’t grow up in Italy in the ’70’s and therefore they did not have to sit to analyse sentences and learn poems by heart. But I’ve managed to pass on what is important to me, a sense of belonging to a small town on the other side of the world and the ability to communicate in my mother tongue.

The other day we were in the car chatting and Sofia told me: “E’ ficcato dentro properly? Puoi check?” (Is it in properly, can you check?). I promptly “checked” without thinking twice to what she had just said but I was surprised to hear Julia laugh. All of a sudden the weirdness of the sentence dawned on Sof and I and we all started laughing.

Speaking two languages we always tend to choose what it’s easier, I am aware of doing the same with the girls and with my italian friends, and such mixed sentences are all too common. In this case I think that “ficcato” could be seen as a bit of a slang word, a word that only someone who has grown up speaking italian would use and together with properly conjugated verbs and english words it made for a very complex sentence 😉

Julia wrote it down and I had to share it with you, now it will become immortal!

Dante is possibly turning in his grave but this is a different era and a different country after all!

 

Pubblica ammenda

L’altro giorno, mentre scrivevo questo post e, in seguito, discutevo animatamente con il mio australian marito sull’esagerato intervento dello Stato riguardo l’uso obbligatorio dei caschi  in bicicletta, dall’altra parte del mondo, la mia mamma pedalava pian piano verso casa.

La mia mamma non e’ una ciclista e usa la bici come la userei io, se non dovessi mettere il casco. Piccoli giri nel quartiere, lenti e tranquilli, una pedalata dopo l’altra senza mai cambiar marcia, pensando a cosa cucinare per cena.

Inforca la rotonda che la condurrà direttamente nel cancello di casa ma, un’autista distratta e con il sole negli occhi non si ferma a darle la precedenza e la povera mamma finisce in ospedale con trauma cranico e due costole rotte. Avesse avuto il casco se la sarebbe cavata con un paio di costole rotte e, possibilmente, meno paura.

Ebbene si, ho sbagliato. Prima di tutto ho dovuto dire a Nigel che ha ragione…i caschi sono importanti ed e’ una scelta responsabile dello stato imporli ai suoi cittadini. Mi e’ costato parecchio ma l’ho fatto! E poi ho pensato di informarvi, anche se mi costa fatica, ma penso sia giusto fare una specie di pubblica ammenda.

Nanny State? Yes, please 😉

 

My journey through school – high school

We made it to High School!

We made it to High School!

Last monday Julia had her last school concert. “Come and say farewell to our year 12 students” said the school’s newsletter. I have read this so many times during the years. The last senior concert, a big milestone, I am always moved to see how mature and grown up the kids look, standing on stage, confident and proud. And all of a sudden Julia was one of them. Since then it has been a succession of “last times” and here we are, tomorrow will be her last day of school!

Although it feels all a bit sudden, it has been a six years journey. We started by looking at the most suitable school for her. In Victoria students, generally, have to attend the school closer to their residence address. It is however possible to apply to go to a different school on the basis of curriculum grounds.  Because of her interest in music and playing the cello she was able to find a place in a local school with an excellent music program and a good all round reputation and so, in 2010, she started at Northcote High.

Just like with primary school, I had to get used to a whole new system. The first three years all students learn the same basic subjects. Depending on what the school offers, they can choose different languages and from year 8 also a number of electives subjects. Julia had the opportunity to try woodwork and textiles, cooking and Chinese. In year 10  they are able to choose which direction they want to take and decide what subjects to study. It is in year 11 and 12 that they start working exclusively on the subjects they will take to their VCE exams, at the end of year 12.

Northcote High is a very big school for italian standards but this time, unlike in primary school, the classrooms had desks and chairs, a white board and we had to buy books. Not many…but at least some! Students have to wear a uniform. I dreaded the idea at first but I soon got used to it and so did Julia. In the self conscious years of adolescence it was a relief for her not to have to think of what to wear to fit in. They do have “free dress” days every term and occasionally even “themed” days, when kids can display their uniqueness and wear what they like best.

China orchestra tour

China orchestra tour

The music program has certainly been one of the highlight of the past 6 years and it’s one of the aspect of school in Australia that I like the most. The fact that it offers students the opportunity to play an instrument and perform without the need to attend a specific music school. Julia played in the orchestra and the strings ensemble from the beginning of high school. She went on interstate and overseas tours, established long lasting friendships and developed self discipline and confidence that will no doubt accompany her into adulthood. Plus she has tons of memories and a great musical repertoire!

Of course I have had my reservations. Unlike in Italy there is very little homework and studying done at home, the bulk of the work is completed during school hours. There are no random testing, no scary interrogazioni when the teacher picks a student and asks questions about a particular topic, giving marks according to the replys. Exams only start in year 10 and, in my opinion, are not taken too seriously until they get to year 12.

And there are hardly any consequences if a student is not performing well. No failing or have to repeat the year, just encouragement to try and do better next time. Although in principle this approach sounds very nurturing, I am still to be convinced of its potential success.

Home from the second last day, with a signed uniform!

Home from the second last day, with a signed uniform!

Julia has never worked very hard and has always done well but there has been a change in the past two years. She is still doing well but, finally, she is working hard! Her attitude has made me reconsider my doubts as I see her studying with great dedication and interest. Exams will start on the 29th october. She is going through this last stretch in a calm and relaxed way, taking one step at the time, spending time with her friends and playing her cello in between writing essays and reading Wuthering Hights and the Odyssey.

It has being a fabulous journey and, as after all the best journeys, I will be sad and relieved when it’s over.

 

I am Italian again!

My italian passport expired years ago and I have never found the courage, time and patience to renew it.

We all know how italian bureaucracy can be a tad complex at times, therefore a trip to the Italian Consulate in Melbourne could potentially become a bureaucratic nightmare.

But where there is bureaucracy, there is a way to avoid it and, as all good italians, for years I had found a way to do so and still keep my passport up to date. I had “conoscescenze“, a friend who worked at the consulate and sorted out all my italian citizenship needs. Then, unfortunately, he was posted somewhere else and, with him, I lost all my privileges. My passport has being lying dormant since 2007.

There is no practical reason for me and my daughters to have an italian passport, we can easily travel with our australian ones but I like the idea of being able to go to Europe as a european and, this year, I decided I was going to renew our passports.

The first step is to make an appointment. I knew it might take a few months so, knowing that Julia will go to Europe next July for a gap year, I was very organised and went to make our appointments a few weeks ago, in August. There are option for single citizenship and double citizenship and the website kindly state that there might be a few months waiting for people with the double citizenship. First appointment …august 2015…in one year time!

I tried to call to ask if she could have an earlier appointment as she was planning to leave in July next year. But at the Italian Consulate they don’t answer phone calls. I emailed but I received an auto reply stating that the Italian Consulate doesn’t reply to emails. The appointment is the only way in!

A friend, italian of course, told me: no problem, just pretend to have only one citizenship. I followed her advise and yesterday I went to my appointment.

I did feel a bit nervous as, in my many years down under, I have become very good at respecting rules but I did feel entitled to be heard and I walked confidently to the counter. No one asked me about my double citizenship and before I knew it I was given some forms to fill and I was in! IMG_2168

The man across the desk was friendly but I immediately felt guilty and told him my secret. I had lied, I did have an australian passport but my daughter…He didn’t let me go any further and assured me there was no problem. He explained that as people with a double citizenship can use the australian passport to travel, they give priority to the single citizenship ones. It made perfect sense.

I had my old passport, I had my driving licence, I had my photos and my money (no credit card accepted!). I ticked all the boxes. Or so I thought. What I did not have was my husband’s permission. I haven’t asked my husbands permission for anything since…I guess I never did! Luckily I wasn’t the only one to find this a bit ridiculous, the kind man smiled and blamed our homeland bureaucracy and we laughed amicably and knowingly. He told me Nigel could print the form from their website, sign it and email it to me now. At my strange request for his permission to get my passport Nigel did not ask any question but I did hear him giggle quietly on the other end. He knew better then to make any comment. Needless to say, he did give me his permission and I came out with my brand, new passport!

Walking back to my car I thought about my morning. It hadn’t been as frustrating or time consuming as I thought it would be. I thought about the strange and apparently meaningless request, the rules that are there to be broken and the formal but conspiratorial attitude of the men working there. I had spent a morning in Italy, without even living the country!

Getting closer, when you are far

When I first left home and Italy I was 20 years old. A friend and I decided to go and spend some time in Paris. My mum was supportive of my decision but, like me, I don’t think she realised I would never come back to live home again. I think she thought I was going on an extended holiday, a little bit of adventure before settling down. In those first few years of my living abroad we didn’t speak or see each other much. I called her regularly but our lives were so different if was very hard to find something to say.

My mum at her happiest, in her garden, with her precious nipotine

My mum at her happiest, in her garden, with her precious nipotine

My mum hates to travel, she loves her home, her garden and her cooking. It must have been very hard for her to accept that her only daughter had no intention of settling down. On the contrary I kept travelling from place to place, living in grotty flats, doing all sort of casual jobs and having absolutely no plans for her future.

When I introduced her to Nigel she had been so worried that I was never going to find anyone who would marry me, that she loved him at first sight! Even if he was a tall, Jewish, Australian boy, wearing thai farmers’ pants and did not speak a word of Italian! I guess she knew by then that I would never go back to live in Italy and the idea that at least I would not move around so much appealed to her. Even if I was going to live in Australia.

Although she does not like to travel she has come to Melbourne many times over the years. She complains about the long trip (but who doesn’t!) and the life style here but she has made the effort and I do appreciate it as it hasn’t been easy for her.

We have had our ups and downs and she wasn’t always accepting of my decision to move and, for years, she found ways of making me feel guilty about having “abandoned” her and I resented her for doing that.

But at the moment our relationship is flourishing and I am thanking Skype for that! It took a while to convince my parents that there was a way to talk and see each other on the computer. They don’t like changes and technology scares them. But once they understood how Skype worked they never looked back.

Selfie!

Selfie con mamma!

My mum and I speak at least twice a week. Often it’s just a quick exchange, a little bit of gossip that she knows I would like to hear or something about the girls. She shows me the beautiful mushrooms she picked in the woods and I show her my bread just out of the oven. Skype has brought a new dimension to our conversations, now is almost like a “dropping in”. I can see what she is wearing and understand immediately how the weather is in Vallecrosia. She can see my new haircut and notice if I have a new top. She can comment on the girls too long hair and too short skirts and, although she is on the other side of the world, they can still experience this delightful aspect of an italian nonna!

I know it won’t always be this easy, my parents are still young and at the moment chatting on Skype is a wonderful way to feel part of their life but once their health will start to deteriorate it will not be enough. For now though, I enjoy this new found closeness with my mum, our laughs and our gossiping on line have become a pleasant part of our week and I am sure we are both cherishing our time together. I often wonder if we could have been this close if I lived next door to her but this, I guess, I will never know!

 

My journey through school – first step, primary school

Here we start!

Here we start!

Julia is about to close a big chapter of her life, her last year of school is almost over. As we are getting closer to the end, I find myself thinking about these years and my journey through the Australian school system. A journey not always easy and at times foreign and unfamiliar but, ultimately, a journey that left me feeling very positive about my daughter’s education.

My journey started at playgroup, when Julia was barely one year old and the conversation between mothers went to what school to choose and…waiting lists! It was one of those “fish out of water” moments that often happens in the life of us migrants and I sat there feeling confused and slightly inadequate.

This is the first big difference between the Italian and the Australian school system. Particularly at a secondary level, parents often choose to send their children to a private school.  Paying to get an education sounded weird enough to me, but paying to be on a waiting list from the age of one was just beyond belief! I decided that day that I was never sending my daughter to a private school and started my “public school” campaign with Nigel who soon turned the corner and became the first in his family to send his children to a public high school!

Area 2

Area 2

Julia’s primary school was local and a bit alternative, it looked like fun and at the age of five, fun seemed pretty important.

I was used to a very different environment and approach. Classrooms, desks with set places, teachers behind a desk, books and daily homework. Spensley Street Primary school had no classrooms but “areas”, desks were used only for special projects, kids usually sat on the floor, no text books and absolutely no homework. Of course I had my moments of discouragement, asking myself if in this environment my daughter was ever going to learn to read, let alone doing anything else vaguely academic. She certainly loved going to school, where she dressed up, talked about her favourite teddy bear in front of a group of attentive pupils and painted fabulous pictures with her fingers. When I asked the teacher when she was going to start reading, she was now in grade 2, the teacher told me not to worry, she was taking all the right steps in that direction and she would get there in her own time. I must admit I wasn’t reassured, seen that some of her friends where going through the first Harry Potter book while Julia had absolutely no interest in putting more then three words together!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Different ways of learning, using floor or desks!

Needless to say I was wrong and, yes, the teacher was right. She took her time but Julia did learn to read and developed a passion for books and learning in general.

The way of learning is certainly very different to what I was used to. In primary school there are no specific subjects, no history or geography and even maths seemed to be taught in a very “practical” way. I never heard my girls reciting the times tables like I used to do, but somehow they appear to have learned them. There isn’t much memorising involved in the australian system, the learning is done in a more “organic” way, kids are getting there through their own path. It does sound like a lovely way to learn and still I spent years worrying about my girls path to learning. Could they actually become responsible adults without having learned the structure of the Greek city-states???

End of primary school assembly

End of primary school assembly

As we are approaching the end of her school years I am very pleased with what Spensley St Primary school taught Julia. The move to high school went smoothly and she took with her the skills she learned to help her settle in a more structured environment. High school has been another journey, but I will have to write about that some other time!

 

 

 

The language of others

For years I struggled with my accent and the fact that I would never, really, linguistically belong here. If I had to make a formal phone call I would practice what I had to say, worried that the person on the other end might not understand my accent or that I would make a mistake. When I met someone new I always felt a little bit of apprehension about the way I talked, nervous about not being clear enough or sounding a bit “funny”.

Finally I accepted that my accent was here to stay and told myself that I never have a problem when people speak italian with a foreign accent. On the contrary, I love the fact that they made an effort to learn and often the accent makes them sound a lot more interesting. I told myself that if I felt this way possibly some people would feel the same about my accent and I stopped worrying.

Nevertheless there are still a lot of occasions in which this language tricks me and I find myself wondering if I will always completely master some of its subtleties and stop sounding weird, funny, cute or simply incompetent!

One of my biggest problem has been mastering the dreaded “H” at the beginning of words. In italian we don’t have words starting with “H” and when we do, it is silent. It sounds strange but generally I don’t actually hear the “H” at the beginning of a word. To me “armless” sounds just the same as “harmless” and this is why, when my dear friend Christian pointed out that I wrote in one of my posts about my “armless friend” it took me a while to understand what his problem was! Then I had to laugh, particularly when I realised that I never new “harmless” had an “H” and, being a word I use regularly, I wonder what people have made about all my “armless” statements over the years!

ghostbuster-logoBesides the pronunciation problems I often bump into other small obstacles. They are often in the form of “misunderstood words or sayings”. I hear them, I like them and I make them mine. The problem is that what I hear is sometimes not what has been said. Only recently, chatting with Julia in the car, I used what I always thought was a great word “the booze buster”. In my mind this has always been the police bus that checks if you have been drinking. I imagined it had something to do with the Ghost Busters and loved the humour in it. Police busting those drink drivers! Obviously I have managed to hide my mistake for years and was only when Julia started laughing at something that I thought wasn’t at all funny I had to come to terms with the fact that…there are no “booze busters” but only very boring “booze buses”.

There are many of these incidents but for now I just want to share the joy I felt a few weeks ago when, during an aqua aerobics class, jumping at the sound of Abba in the pool, I heard the lovely Martine behind me singing “wanna do”. A kindred soul who, like me before her, had no idea that the song was actually “Waterloo”!

I guess my family and friends have stopped correcting me (but not laughing at me!), and they just accept that this is the way I speak so the fact that I am now writing this blog in english hopefully will help me modify some of these awkward slip-ups!

I have thought about having someone else proof-reading my posts and editing when necessary, as very tactfully suggested by Christian, but I came to the conclusion that what I write here is who I am and, although I will try not to make too many grammatical mistakes, I will have to accept that this blog has an accent and a lot of “misunderstood” words. However please feel free to come forward and let me know if anything I wrote sounded funny or out of context, it was possibly one of those “Hs” gone missing!