Sunday, 20 May 2018

Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to China (London/China, 1986)



During Queen Elizabeth II's visit to China in October 1986, BBC TV’s Breakfast Time broadcast live satellite pictures every morning of her movements.  They asked me to be present in the White City studio, so that should something go wrong during the live broadcasts, e.g., loss of sound or picture, I’d be on hand to speak to the Chinese side as live satellite time was hugely expensive.

The first four days went by without any need for my services.

On Day Five, when the Queen was in Xi’an, visiting the terracotta warriors site, the director/producer on duty that day wanted to speak to the sound man of the BBC film crew.  

BBC Director/Producer, via radio, to the Chinese side:  Can you get Mr Jones, please?

Chinese side: (A few seconds’ silence, then hesitantly) Prease, can you repeat?

BBC: (more slowly) Can you get Mr Jones, please?

Chinese side: (Another pause, then hesitantly) Prease, can you say it one more time?

BBC:  (Enunciating each word slowly)  Can you get Mr Jones, please?

Chinese side: (Slight hesitation)  What is Mr Jones?

At this point, the director/producer called me over.

Me:  请你叫 Jones 先生来。qǐng nǐ jiào Jones xiānsheng lái / Please call Mr Jones over.

Chinese side:  Oh, Brian!

It was the “get” that confused them, as presumably they couldn't understand how one can "get" a person!

(London/China 1986)

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Sanity-challenging conversations: 9 (London)



Mrs Ding said, for lunch, we could eat some of the salted duck’s egg her Hong Kong friend had made herself and given her.  It was delicious, so I said, “Next time you see her, can you ask her how she does them?”  She said, “She brings them already done.”  Huh???

(London 2018)

Sanity-challenging conversations: 8 (London)



Mrs Ding gave me a dress from her wardrobe, as she no longer had any use for it.  She’s the old lady I’ve been visiting on Sundays to massage her bad back and aching legs, then cook and eat lunch with her.

The following week, she asked if the dress fitted.  I said, “It does, but I had a bad skin rash last year, which left some big scars on my legs.  The dress is not long enough to cover them, so I won’t be wearing it.”  She said, “In that case, you can wear it when you next go to Singapore.”  Huh?!??!

(London 2018)

*See also Sanity-challenging conversations: 2 and Sanity-challenging conversations: 3

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Sanity-challenging conversations: 7 (London)



A visitor arrived from Beijing to see her daughter, and wanted me to go shopping with her.  On the bus on the way back to her daughter’s flat, she took out a bag of small packets of processed fish — like tinned fish but in packets instead, opened one small packet and started to eat the contents.  

She took out another packet and offered it to me.  This is the conversation that ensued.

She: This is absolutely delicious.  Have some [now].  
Me: Thank you, but I won’t eat it just yet, because I’m teaching in two hours’ time and the student hates fish.
She: It’s really yummy.  Try it.
Me: Thanks, I’ll do that tomorrow when I’m not teaching.  I’m sure it’s delicious.
She: Try it, it’s so tasty, have some [now].
Me: I’m sure it is, but like I said, the student I’m teaching later hates fish, so I don’t want to be breathing fish-breath at him during the lesson.  I will try it at the weekend.
She: It’s really nice.  Have some [now].

(London 2011)

Friday, 9 March 2018

Marital bliss: 6 (London)


American John was doing his PhD at SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies), University of London, when he started going out with Brazilian Celia who was doing Japanese at SOAS.

She'd call him gringo*, he said, never John.

One night, he was woken up by her shaking him, "John!  John!  Wake up, John!"

He said, "I knew I was in trouble when she started calling me John."

Sure enough, she's just had a dream in which he was kissing another woman, and was very angry with him.

(London 1980s)

*gringo | ˈɡrɪŋɡəʊ | noun (plural gringos) informal (in Spanish-speaking countries and contexts, chiefly in the Americas) a person, especially an American, who is not Hispanic or Latino.  ORIGIN Spanish, literally ‘foreign, foreigner, or gibberish’.



Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Idiotic behaviour (Singapore)



When I eventually got a word in, I said to the man from Mauritius, “You still haven’t answered my question about how you met Doreen Yip.  What’s the relevance of her being an insurance broker to how you met?”

It turned out that they were both standing in the queue for the cable car to go over to Sentosa Island.  He was feeling very nervous.  Doreen Yip said, “You look very tense.”  He said, “Yes, I’m very nervous about going on the cable car.”  She said, “There was one incident* when the cable broke, the car dropped into the water, and some people died.”

*Sentosa Cable Car Accident, 29 January 1983


(Singapore) 

NB: Doreen Yip is not her real name

Sanity-challenging conversations: 6 (London)




I asked the man from Mauritius how he’d met Doreen Yip.  

His answer: “She is an insurance broker.  She took me around Singapore, showed me all the sights.  XX Hotel.  Orchard Road.  Even invited me home to meet her family.  They were really nice to me.”

(London 2018)

NB: Doreen Yip is not her real name