Monday, November 21, 2011

Rendered Speechless

Sometimes, just sometimes, I'm rendered speechless.

This happens frequently when I'm trying to make a point in German, I know exactly the point I want to make but my brain realises that I don't know a particular word halfway through the phrase, there then follows a pause while my brain frantically recalculates another way of saying the same thing - it's amazing that I can still manage to crack jokes in German.

Last week I was speechless in my own language and that takes some doing, vast quantities of alcohol or sleep will do the trick but shock? Rarely.

We were at a school do (just Jas's class, so 23 kids plus assorted siblings and parents) to hear all about the fun that they'd had on their weeklong school trip a month ago. They had all had an amazing time and were keen to share it with us, I don't quite fully understand why the sharing had to be so wholesale, a little careful editing would have worked wonders, but hey, I didn't have anything else planned for those four hours...

During the break before the finale (video of the week's activities) we had supper* and so had to make small talk with other parents, fun. Both Rebecca and I managed to avoid sitting at any tables (not too hard to achieve as there were more people than seats) until the class teacher pointed out some free seats and we were forced to pull them over and occupy them or look very anti-social. Rebecca's younger daughter was sitting with us wearing her lovely new bright purple Boden duffle coat, over an equally loud Boden skirt. The teacher turned to Elsa and commented on her pretty coat. The remark was then made that it was from the English company Boden (which is available here either through the UK website or the German one). Which set the mother next to me on her high horse. She declared that that brand was expensive, to which we retaliated that quality comes at a cost, if the conversation had been in English she'd have got a whole lot more than that simple answer because I feel quite strongly about the fact that not only do cheaper goods not last but frequently the people involved in the manufacture are often underage and underpaid. She, being better at German (although not native) than either Rebecca or I, then continued her rant about expensive clothing before changing tack and exclaiming over the paucity of clothing being worn by Elsa in the depths (ha!) of winter - tights and a skirt and no vest and the tights weren't even thermal ones. No wonder the child is so thin she declared, using all her energy to maintain her body temperature (this in full hearing of said child) does she never get stomach ache, she asked, seeing as how her stomach isn't properly insulated with the necessary 3 layers of clothing**?

This rant (I'd say conversation, but it was so one sided that rant is more appropriate) annoyed me so much that I tuned out and turned away, eventually getting up and therefore missing the comment from the teacher, who maybe thought to diffuse the atmosphere. He turned to Rebecca and referring to Elsa's chic coat and skirt combo commented that he hadn't realised the English could be so stylish...

We're still (five days later) trying to work out if he was trying to make a joke or whether it was a back handed compliment, whilst the comment from my husband was "doesn't say much for what you and Rebecca wear, does it?" Grrrrrrr.

* or rather "Abendbröt" (literally "evening bread" because that's what the evening meal is traditionally, bread and ham/cheese)
** us English mothers are considered pretty lax parents by our German counterparts I think - our children never have vests on, rarely wear hats and don't possess thermal long johns, I keep trying to explain that the English are clearly much hardier than the Germans!

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