Off topic: The Little Translator solves the world economic crisis
Thread poster: Mervyn Henderson

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 27, 2008

The Little Translator claws his way back:

The Little Translator goes for the Big Lie:

The Little Translator meets the Mob:

The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy:

The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy (II):

The Little Translator turns Little Detective:

The Little Translator in the dying hours of 2007:

The Little Translator and the Basque sex kittens:

The Little Translator turns Little Detective (I½):

The Little Translator and the reluctant Sergeant:

The Little Translator goes for a ride in a car:

The Little Translator addresses the Queen of England:

The Little Translator relates the Barcelona Connection:

The Little Translator makes a right royal faux pas:

The Little Translator throws his hat in the ring with Obama and McCain:

The Sergeant cackled as he pocketed the fifty euros. I watched, tight-lipped.

“You haven’t been around too much, have you, Little Translator? A bit green around the gills. Maybe you've been translating for too long. Should have tried your hand at a few other things as well”.

“I have”, I said. “For instance, I got a great job for a couple of years lecturing at an Irish university in the 90s.”

Garmendia’s eyebrows went up.

“Oh. Not so much Little Translator as Little Intellectual. Where was this?”

“In Derry. Magee College, Derry. I loved it, but left because I didn't want to stay in Ireland. Derry was a fine place, apart from the relentless rain, like just about anywhere on the island, and the wind blowing up the estuary from the sea colder than an Inuit's backside on an igloo toilet. The main building, the old part, stood all majestic next to Northumberland Avenue at the top of a steep hill. The centre of Derry is very like Bilbao, too - all steep ups and downs, and then there’s the river running through it too.

One of the first things I heard when I arrived was that the boys in the black berets and dark glasses had carried out one of their operations beside the building a few years previously. They found someone working undercover there. A policeman, ostensibly on a course, as I recall, or maybe really and truly on a course, poor sod. There was a good bit of paranoia at Magee around that time, probably induced by Colin Wallace and others, talk of SAS infiltration among the lecturers, that sort of thing. Anyway, they “dealt” with this man, then put him in his car at the front of Magee and phoned the cops, told them there was a dead man in a car. Two detectives came to investigate, opened the car door, and boom went the booby-trap. One of the detectives died, and they killed the first one twice. Two wreaths appear on the steps every March.”

“Talking of policemen”, I said, "and also standing here with one, one day I met a guy I knew from my youth. He was working the police barrier near Strand Road police station, opposite where the students and certain lecturers would let their hair down at Hennessy’s disco. Don’t know if it’s still there or not. I had played football with this chap from the age of 7 to when he went off to do his rozzer exams at 19. He was smart, smarter than me. Pretended not to know me. Said very quickly in a low voice, “Goodafternoonsir, longtimenosee, butdon’tletonyouknowme, peoplewatching, alwayspeoplewatchingus, pretendyou’reaskingfordirections.” He was right, too. I had nothing to hide in Derry since my job was legit and I really was who I said I was, but on that side of the River Foyle I must say I did hesitate to use my real name for the first month among all the Seamuses, O’Dohertys, Aislings, Patricks and McGuinnesses. A little too Anglo-Saxon to pass unnoticed, my name. Anyway, I asked him for the imaginary directions, and he pointed me right, left and straight on sir, and goodbye now. My dad rang me that evening, said, “Did you know your mate was blown up this afternoon?” “What, today?”, I said. “Sure I was talking to him only three or four hours ago.”

I saw him a week or so later back home, out of Derry where it was safe to see him. Said a call came in just after he'd been talking to me, and his patrol had to go way out to the arse end of nowhere beyond the city on a harassment notice. On the outskirts, just near the border with the Republic, where it was still relatively easy to hop across the fields into a foreign country after carrying through some urgent paramilitary business in West Britain. He and his mates were all ripping because it was 7 pm, and way past time to clock off shift. They got out of the armoured car and looked around. My mate went over to a huge embankment beside the road. He could just see a bloke way way up at the top looking down at them. The bloke had his arm straight up in the air, kind of expectant. As he watched, this bloke brought his arm straight down. The signal. “The embankment blew up in my face”, he told me. “Luckily the device was small and half-buried, so it only tore my uniform to shreds and perforated both eardrums.” The neighbours all came out to shout at the coppers. At the coppers, mind. It was that kind of area. “What the hell’s going on?, they said. “Look at all this earth thrown up over my car, you black so and sos.” I should add that when people insulted you calling you “black” in Northern Ireland, they weren’t talking about the colour of your skin, but rather your possible membership of or sympathy with the faintly sinister Protestant organisation known as the Royal Black Preceptory.

They brought up a sniffer dog to hunt out more explosives, because you never know. Lots of tension. One of the locals brought his labrador out to mess around with the police dog. They asked him to remove it. He didn’t. The dog sat down wagging its tail, and reached round for a good long leisurely lick at itself. The sergeant smiled. He said to the owner, “Do you know why dogs lick their genitals, sir?” “No”, said the man, suspicious and perplexed. “Why?” “Because they can, sir. Because they can”, the sergeant laughed. “You wouldn’t want me to take that little pleasure, unattainable for most human beings without having a few ribs surgically removed, away from old Fido here, would you, sir?" he asked politely, calmly removing his gun from its holster and putting it to the panting pooch's head. The mutt was taken indoors sharpish. Hardly official procedure or playing by the rules, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.

“Act smart now, lad”, one of the old-timers told him a few days later. "You've got compensation coming to you from London. The basic isn’t much, but you can bump it up quite a bit. When you come back after your two months’ paid leave, start crying. Blubber uncontrollably every time you have to get into the van. Say you have trouble sleeping. Forget your colleagues' names. Throw your lunch at the wall in the canteen. Fly off the handle with your superiors, F and B at them violently for no conceivable reason. Mind you, that's gratifying in any job, but in this case you get paid extra for it too.”

“Is that what you did, then?” my old friend asked the veteran.

“Well”, he said, “yes, I did the first time, but after a while I kind of … got used to it, and couldn’t do the pretend bit so well any more. It’s a strange thing to say, but after the second time I didn't mind so much. Being blown across the road in a metal cubicle does give you a big rush. Exciting. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s 100% pleasant, and it affects different people in different ways, but I'm not the only one whose adrenaline it gets pumping. Ask around. But you go for the long-term psychological damage and lasting trauma, lad. Trust me. The Brits can't say no. If they do, Paisley and Maginnis loudmouth them in the Commons, and it’s not worth the hassle. Doubles your compensation."

“And did it?” asked Garmendia.

I shook my head. “Oh no. It tripled it.”

As if on cue, the phone rang.

“Another customer?” chuckled Garmendia.

“Not this time", I said hurriedly. "Best behaviour now. It's the Queen again."

“Hello Mum", I babbled into the phone. “Look, about that “Elizabeth” stuff … it was all a misunderstanding, you see. The wavies …”

“I imagined as much”, said the Queen indulgently. “The problem is that MI5, MI6, Special Branch and the rest of the Permanent Paranoia Pack are constantly listening in, and they tend to let the dogs loose without saying anything to me. I’ve managed to persuade them, though. What ARE you up to over there?”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Well, we’re out to trap a murderer, you see, the Asmatutakoizena Killer. But don’t tell anyone for the moment, will you, because it’s under wraps.”

“Oh I see. A whodunit. Like Agatha Christie, you mean.”

“O yes”, I said dreamily, “like Agatha Christie, like Agatha, yes …”, and before you could say “les cellules grises, mon cher Hastings", those wavy lines were up and running again ...

“Well”, said Miss Marple, putting down her cup of Earl Grey on the table and beaming at Major Fortescue and Lady Wortwhistle, "it wasn’t until I saw that poor Robertson girl in her blue chintz dress at breakfast on Monday morning that I realised what had happened. It was then it dawned on me why she became so agitated on seeing there was no Oxford marmalade on the sideboard, and why her dog didn’t bark in the night. She does remind me, you know, of Agnes Pettigrew, who cleaned for old Mrs. Blenkinsop where I live in St Mary Mead, you know. Such a lovely girl, Agnes, but it all went wrong for her the day she met Harry Grimes, a most handsome and dashing young man, the kind these girls fall for, but most unsuitable. A wrong ‘un, little Miss Peasbody at the post office told me, and she was right. Harry had his evil way with her, oh yes, but Agnes was just a pastime, for the whole time he was still carrying on with his lifelong lover behind her back. Heartbroken with the separation when it came, Agnes was, and bitter too. And she began to make trouble for the family.”

There was an odd note to Miss Marple’s voice as she continued slowly: “Just like this poor girl was doing here. Making trouble for the family of the man who had betrayed her. Scandal! Reputation, reputation, reputation!”

The elderly grey-haired lady sitting opposite the other two sniffed a little and nodded her head vigorously at the line from Othello.

“It certainly was a scandal”, she remarked disdainfully. “When I think of all the things our family did for her, oh ….! It was a blessing she died prematurely, if you ask me”.

Miss Marple moved her head slightly to look at her. It was difficult for a little old lady like Miss Marple to look dangerous, but she looked it now.

“Oh yes, a blessing, certainly. But for others, not for her. Because there could be no scandal in that family, could there? Oh no. Oh my, no. That particular dynasty was untouchable, wasn’t it? There could be no scandal, no. And so someone decided to put a stop to it. Permanently.”

Her interlocutor shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Miss Marple. It was an accident, for heaven’s sake. The brakes on the motor car failed. The police said so. It happens all the time. Only a few months ago I read about a man that - ”

Little Miss Marple’s tone was definitely menacing now as she stood up. “Yes, they did, my dear. They failed. But this was no accident. And who would know better than you, since it was you that deliberately cut the cables to make absolutely sure they would. I asked Inspector Sharpe to take a closer look at that motor car only a few hours ago, and what he found told me all I needed to know."

The voice rose on a shriller note as I started to come out of the wavies.

“Yes, you killed that poor unfortunate wretch! It was you who sabotaged that car, a car that smashed at high speed into a pillar in a tunnel. It was you that killed Diana. You murdered her, yes you did, and now you’ll have to answer for it”.

A regal voice at the other end of the line snapped me out.

“One does have one’s limit, you know, Little Translator.”

“I’m sorry, Mum”, I said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s the wavies. I can’t help it.”

“Well, you be careful from now on", said Mrs Windsor. “Otherwise I certainly will let the dogs off. Off quicker than Mata Hari’s knickers in an officers’ mess. Or vice-versa.”

“Er, vice-versa?" I queried.

“Yes, off quicker than an officer's mess in Mata Ha-"

I had to interrupt. “You can’t say that kind of thing here, Mum”, I warned her earnestly. “It's not allowed.”

“Rubbish”, said Her Majesty. “Nonsense. Fiddlesticks. Poppycock. Balderdash. Piffle. Bollocks. I say what I bladdy well like. I’m the Queen, for God's sake.”

And with that she rang orf, I mean she rang off.

“Drink up, Sergeant", I said. "We’re in the clear, but you've got to ring home, and we've got to find somewhere to sleep tonight".

Garmendia threw back his Patxaran.

“And you’ve got to go on with the Barcelona Connection. You said next time, but you haven’t said a word.”

“When the Basque Government starts paying me handsomely”, I told him, “for the publicity I’m giving their country with this occasional patter, I’ll start complying with story specifications and deadlines.”

“Have you asked them?” queried the Sergeant.

“Not yet. But it’s only a matter of time.”

“By the way", he added as we made our way out of the bar, “how about another weird title for this one?”

“You’re on”, I agreed.

[Edited at 2008-11-27 12:01 GMT]

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:26
Italian to English
+ ...
Billy Connolly Nov 27, 2008

You're the Billy Connolly of the translation world, Merv

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Alexandra Scott  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:26
Member (2006)
Italian to English
+ ...
Very entertaining! Nov 28, 2008

Thanks Mervyn.

Especially liked the PPP (Permanent Paranoia Pack)...

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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:26
French to English
Missed a few episodes.... Nov 28, 2008

... and I don't have time to catch up right now, but I still enjoyed this very much!

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

“By the way", he added as we made our way out of the bar, “how about another weird title for this one?”


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Katherine Mérignac  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:26
Member (2004)
French to English
Fab! Dec 1, 2008


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