Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Last Dutch class of the year yesterday, during which our teacher put up a document which set out all the mistakes we made in the exam - not collectively, INDIVIDUALLY. By name. FACE YOUR FAILURES, STUDENTS. I was first up and the list was loooong and shaming, many poorly structured sentences and off-the-wall verb choices, but I was still on a high from managing to crowbar the phrase “onnodige verplaatsingen” (unnecessary journeys) into my oral exam, after spending the entire night with it trotting around in my head. Post oral debrief:

Teacher: That was some rich vocabulary you used there, nice one, I was impressed.
E: But it’s exactly the phrase you told us to use. You wrote it down, word for word, on the blog.
Teacher: Yeah, but still.

I got 90% on the oral exam, better than my exam partner Elena who is married to a Dutch speaker and who terrified me with her hugely long, sophisticated sentences full of complex grammatical constructions, which I answered with pithy (= basic) two word comebacks. I have huge holes in my knowledge, grammar and vocabulary, but somehow I blind the teacher with my plausible accent. I’m not proud of it, but it’s handy. We have a different teacher for the next level, so I might need to up my game.

This was my fourth Dutch level/class, and the higher I have got, the less interesting the class has become,. I mean, they’re all very nice and everything, but nearly everyone is Belgian and quite middle class now, whereas before it was a mad old mix of nationalities and backgrounds, Chechen students, Iranian professors, Lithuanian trailing spouses, unemployed Brits, French baggage handlers, the Indian bloke who just used to copy everything I wrote down… I mean, how am I going to learn the Rwandan national anthem now?

I have been going to yoga for a few months. (I go with my husband, it is our new Thing. We make for pretty improbable yogis, me idle/anxious/incapable of not comparing self to others, him goal oriented/alpha/inflexible, neither of us sylphlike or wearing leggings with weird geometric patterns also he insists on us going on his motorbike whilst playing Dutch dance music stations on its stereo at high volume. This sends the delicate, beautiful ladies in heavily patterned yoga leggings skittering in all directions). Once again, I make the same observation about sport/exertion: my thighs are genetically programmed to bulk up dramatically when exposed to even the mildest physical activity.

I don’t know what the evolutionary function of this was in my forefathers' Celtic bog, but I am a prime specimen of whatever it was: a couple of lousy warrior poses and I have thighs like an all-in wrestler. It is tiresome. Also, then the giant thighs request more food to sustain themselves, yes, this is biologically coherent, shut up, result: I am fatter than before when I did no sport whatsoever, more tired and achy and very cross about it. I can only hope that it is somehow stopping me from curling over into full Mrs Overall and is thus, on some level, worth it. I mean, do I have less back pain? Yes. But I have compensatory pains all over the rest of my body. Is it worth it? I do not know, but we've paid for the full year now, so I'm locked in. Namaste.

Look at me with all my improving activities. They are over for the week, let me reassure you, full inertia will now be resumed. Son is watching Dexter when banned from killing strangers on the internet, so I spend large swathes of every day - even mornings! The decadence! - staring dully at a programme I have already watched. Living my best life. 


25% Chausson aux Pommes
25% Fitbit irritation
25% 'Took on a job that scares me' fear
25% Picard salt and pepper crisps. This is one of those Bourjois/Chanel situations.  I swear these are Burts Crisps by another name and no one is going to convince me otherwise. It even says "produit élaboré en Royaume Uni" on the packet. *taps nose*



Patience_Crabstick said...

According to my daughters, "thick" thighs are highly desirable.

I just ate chocolate chips for dinner, which is a pretty good indicator of how my week is going.

blackbird said...

I'm going to start throwing "living my best life" into conversations though it's probably better in writing.

WOL said...

In view of the fact that my town in Tx, US, is (as near as dammit) at the same latitude as Damascus in Syria, and that weatherwise, it's hotter than a $2 pistol firing uphill (78 F/25.5 C at 11:45 at night), I have become nocturnal. This has worked out surprisingly well. All the important businesses (Walmart, Amazon, McDonald's) are open 24/7. Stirring about when the rest of the world is asleep means the number of annoying people I have to deal with has been greatly decreased. Shopped for groceries at 3 a.m. Monday, it was much cooler outside, there were readily available parking spaces astonishingly close to the store entrance, hardly any customers in the store, and hardly any traffic to speak of. My gros chat noir has been delighted to have me on the same schedule he's on.

carolinefo said...

Thanks for alerting me to the existence of the new Manon Bradshaw novel.
I loved the first one.

But how have you read it already when Amazon says it isn't released until tomorrow? HOW?

Have just pre-ordered it, and much to my surprise after the order went through, Amazon said 'Thank you, Richard'.

Well, THAT will teach my husband not to use his Amazon account on my computer and forget to log out.

I'm quite tempted to order a few more books and, ooh, perhaps a few other things while I'm still in this happy position of having simultaneous access to One Click ordering AND his credit card..

But that would be wrong, wouldn't it?

Waffle said...

Cfo - Ha, I prostrated myself TWICE in a shameful fashion at the feet of her publisher and begged a proof. It was worth it.

WOL - I told my sun-hating son about your current temperatures and we both shared a minute of absolute horror.

Patience - this is comforting though I suspect 42 year old ones prob aren't.

just curious said...

I always enjoy reading about your struggles with Dutch; I'm in the process of learning Hungarian and also have huge deficiencies my knowledge, grammar and vocabulary, but I'm told I speak with a good accent. However, sometimes i'm not sure what I'm actually saying. I'm hope that studying a language so completely counter-intuitive to native English speakers will keep me cognitively intact as I age.

Anonymous said...

Your phrase 'unnecessary journeys' reminded me of this weather report which became hugely famous in Ireland

Salome said...

Wait, what Bourjois/Chanel thing? We need to know. My blue/white skin depends on your answer.

Waffle said...

Salome - People say they are manufactured by the same people, I think? I don't know if it's true.

kirkycheep said...

A new blog post from you always cheers me up immeasurably.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a class filled with a crazy mixture of backgrounds - it's almost persuasive enough to get me to sign up for a night class.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I got your book at Blackwell's! Yay!

Carla said...

Got your book in the mail today. Ordered from amazon and shipped somewhere in NY. Looking forward to starting it!!
We are having similar temperatures here in Idaho, as WOL in TX. 104F and counting. I can tell you my chickens are miserable, they do much better in winter than these brutal summers. But, according el presidente, all this climate change is mumbo jumbo. Give me strength for the next four years.
BTW I speak Dutch if you ever need a hand with lessons😊

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