No photos today – basically because I forgot to charge up the camera battery and it died on me before I got where I was going!
The other night I went out with the U3A Italian group for a meal at our local Italian restaurant. Kathy had organised the outing but I didn’t tell the group that I had forewarned Franco, the owner, that it was my Italian class. Sara, the new waitress is Italian, unlike the previous one who was Polish – it’s only a small restaurant – so I told her too and said the group would like to try out their new language skills.
There were eight of us, Pat, Kathy, Gill, Trevor – the only man in the group – the two Jenny’s, Anne and myself, and Sara was tremendous! Right from the start, she welcomed us in Italian, commented on the fact that it was the Italian class – in Italian – and asked everyone what they would like to drink – also in Italian! She took the order – in Italian… no English allowed – and was very impressed, she told me later, when Anne said “Vorrei un bicchiere di vino rosso.” I would like a glass of red wine. In the end we plumped for un bottiglio instead of bicchieri. Gill ordered acqua and one of the Jenny’s chose vino bianco. Did Trevor have una birra? I can’t remember!
Anyway, complete with drinks, we studied the menu – what was this? and what was that? – and made our decisions. Again Sara had us ordering in Italian, asking a few pertinent questions that gave the group something else to think about! She spoke slowly and clearly enough so they all got what she said! It was great! We had a wonderful evening amid much fun and laughter, and everyone said they had enjoyed themselves – even Sara!
Even Franco who had been cooking came out to see us, and to tell us that Sara needed to learn more English! She’s pretty good really, but has an ambition to be an air hostess, and needs to be able to speak better English. I bet you’ve guessed what’s coming next – yes, I volunteered to help out! I have to say I’ve always fancied teaching English as a foreign or second language, but have never got round to doing the training course! However I think I have a good enough grasp of the language to have a go at teaching it. After all I have a greater knowledge of English than I do of Italian and I’ve been teaching it with reasonable success!
So yesterday morning I met up with Sara, a couple of lessons prepared based on some of the things I had observed she was having problems with, but in the end we just sat and chatted, with me correcting some of the more obvious mistakes, and explaining various English constructions – I need to do…. I want to see… I have to go… instead of I need to doing, I want see, I have to going. and adverbs quickly, slowly, neatly , loudly, softly….. Sara taking notes as we spoke. We had quite a laugh over the pronunciation of some sounds that are quite alien to an Italian – th, ch, wh – in Scotland wh is quite different to w. Wales and whales are quite distinguishable as wh sounds like you are softly blowing out the candles on a birthday cake! You can’t do that with a w sound! I think the nearest we got to that was fw! Oh and there was the missing H that makes the Italian English speaker sound very sexy! I ‘ave my book. I comb my ‘air… You ‘elp me… That h is quite hard for Sara! We didn’t touch on the Scottish (Gaelic actually) ch, as in loch, the Scots (Gaelic actually) word for a lake.
We ended up agreeing to do the same sort of thing again soon, depending on her shifts at the restaurant, and then I was off to get changed into choir gear – tartan kilt skirt, black v-necked (colla di V in Italian, Sara told me) top, black tights and black shoes – for a trip to Edinburgh to sing at the Scottish Parliament. We’d been primed some time ago to be prepared for strict security, and had also been asked to fill in a form about dietary requirements as there would be refreshments.
We gathered outside the building at the required time, and were all ushered inside where our jackets, coats and bags were put into trays – as at the airport – and sent through an x-ray machine. The men had to take off their traditional silver-buckled belts and sporrans and have them put through the x-ray too, before walking through the “doorway” – I can’t think of a word for it – that scans for any metal objects on your person. Some of the men even had to take their shoes off. Most of the men were “bleeped” anyway, probably because of buckles on kilts, and had to be hand-scanned – with the clothes brush look-alike. I had to remove the clip to hold my hair up, and others had to remove jewellery…. but eventually we were all through and off to the desk to collect passes on green tape to wear around our necks. Staff have mauve tape – thistle colour! Now there’s a word for Sara to try! Thistle!
A steward led us through the building - up stairs, along passages, round corners, till we came to the Garden lobby where we would be singing later. The 120-strong Lothian and Borders, and Tayside Police choirs with Peebles-based choir, InChorus, were singing as we arrived – what a great sound – We by-passed them, going up another flight of stairs, across a landing, through a door, along another corridor, round a corner and finally into a meeting room where we could get ready. Remember I said we’d filled in the dietary requirements form? We’d expected maybe a buffet tray! We got small round chocolate-covered marshmallow cakes – made by a well known Scottish firm – and diet Irn Bru – a traditional Scottish fizzy soft drink in its full sugar, non-diet form! There wasn’t a vol au vent, a sausage roll or a sandwich in sight! Nor was there even a jug of water to wet our thrapples (Scots throats)! We did get one eventually……. after a request was made!
So after a run through of the songs we had practised, it was time to be taken back round the corner, along the passage, through the door, across the landing and down the stairs again. We arranged ourselves as practised on the stairs; John gave a wee introductory speech in Gaelic then English to explain who we were and what we were going to sing; Jackie gave us our notes - from her i-phone (marvellous the apps you can get for these phones), one-two- three – and we were off! First song over, much clapping from the audience - the general public, tourist visitors mainly, I’d say! On to the second song, and before we knew it our 20 minute spot and seven songs were over! Back up the stairs, across the landing, through the door – well, you remember all that – to pick up our belongings from the meeting room. Our passes were collected by our steward and we were told we could now just wander around the building like all the other visitors if we wanted!
It might have been nice just to do that, but another refreshment, of the sort you get in a pub, was what we needed so for that we had to leave the building and walk a little way up the Royal Mile. After a couple of rounds, the group split into two: the teachers to go off to join in their “Teachers’ New Year” – their end of the school year /beginning of the six-week summer break celebrations – and the rest of us to find somewhere to eat.
The Turkish restaurant a little further up the hill was the choice, so I went along with that! Nice place, jovial owner – so like my friend Ian in France, in appearance – lovely meal, plenty of wine – not that we drink a lot, you understand – and great craic, as the Gaels as well as the Irish call it! It’s pronounced crack and is nothing illegal. It just means we had a good time with a lively atmosphere. No doubt if Jackie had been there we would have sung a song for the Ian look-alike and his staff, but the rest of us were a little more reserved!!!
Time to go home, and for me it was a bus journey back to Peebles. It wasn’t worth bringing the car to town as parking is pretty impossible in the centre at any time, and besides, we had been led to believe the area around Parliament would be closed anyway. (It wasn’t, though it had been in the morning when the Queen was there).
A busy day, and very enjoyable it had been too! Now if only I had charged up that camera battery…..
Talk again soon.