Friday, March 24, 2006

2005-12-25 079So far this week:
- I've worked through one entire night.
- I've had "Tonight, Tonight" from West Side Story stuck in my head for about 32 hours after a charming, handsome and witty guy, who is not remotely a show-tunes person (so much so he goes as far as not being gay) sang in my presence.
- I've found I only know five words of "Tonight, Tonight". Remedial Musicals for me then.
- I've hit free wine after surviving the previous 36 hours only nothing more that a quarter of a packet of Hob-Nobs.
- I've devoured half the Mexican tortilla chip harvest after realising my ears were getting hot on a third of glass of white wine. Which while this would be acceptable in a certain Chinese girl (who nonetheless bravely endeavours on), in an adult European male, it suggests something's not quite right.
- I've found myself in a cupboard with over a dozen other people, rocking gently onto of something unstable, which I think I later discovered was part of an office chair, and realising the only way to stop dousing the girl next to me in wine was to drink it. I'm not sure why we were the cupboard, other than someone found the door unlocked, and it was dark, and we were curious, so people kept walking in blocking anyone else getting out.
- I've bewildered an international collective of people by being completely unfazed by an Indian meal. It had never really occurred to me that the only to countries have exposure to Indian food are India and the UK. I, of course, avoided the vindaloo as it got passed round (according to the Dehliite (or should that be Dehlite?) it isn't a UK created variation), after being ordered by a vindictive, if drunk, Hindi-speaker. But I'm liking the concept of naan with sultanas in it, among masses of spices, even if I do then get mocked for my sultana fetish, having once made reference to my mother's curries [you can tell it's a curry; it's got sultanas in it. But you should already know this from reading this blog, as my life is so pathetically tragic that the merest minutiae get minuted here].
- I've discovered that many Indian restaurants in India serve exactly the same desserts as their UK counterparts, serving such exotically oriental delights as "Egg Man" and "Coconut Parfait" (or was Coconut Supreme? You get the "as Indian as a trading estate in Buckinghamshire" gist anyway). We didn't get any, having sobered up enough by that time to remember their cunning use of the zoom lens when photographing the products (against the same flowers - just count the number of times the yellow roses appear on the menu. And as for ordering stuff from a menu which has pre-printed pictures of it - well, either it's not the freshest or it's not the most imaginative of courses)
- I've noticed that of a table filled with one each of the following - Chinese, English, Indian, Italian, Peruvian and Spanish - the Chinese person is the quietest. The rest of us just used the Greek model of conversation [a conversation is two loud monologues running concurrently]. Ok, minor exaggeration, but it's just as well the only other people in the restaurant were the staff. Sobre-mesa? I'm not sure about over the table; possibly it was more over Table Mountain.
- I've watched The Skin Game, as the B-side to a French film with Greek subtitles, borrowed from a Danish guy. I might have laughing slightly, if in an unflattering way, when the opening credits declared it to be "A Talking Movie".
- I've remembered that I haven't told you about books recently. Did I do Empire? By Niall Ferguson. Good, if similar to his other stuff (I suppose one can't really invent new history for each book). I also read a Christmas present I left behind the first time I was given it - Britain: What a State, by someone or other. Amusing, if childish and predictable. If new to the genre, read What-a-mess first; it's more fun. And I've finished Memoirs of a Geisha (largely when I should have been working), by Arthur Golden. Good, if slightly lacking. But I think it's one of those things which gets called "richly detailed".
- I've predictively cooked delayed pancakes. Delayed because it's well into Lent, predictive because it's on an electric cooker. Tips for next time (even though everything worked when I made them on Shrove Tuesday): remember to mix the eggs into the flour first, rather than adding them all halfway through and thereby making mountains out of moguls (as I later broke them down to being); be chatting merrily away, thus cooking subconsciously - it works; don't talk too much, as cooking unconsciously leads to the creation of activated charcoal, which while purifying, doesn't taste that nice, even with lemon and sugar.
- I've learnt what happens if one tells an Indian girl that she's pretty much English (perhaps in the original sense). Not a good face. But she is; it may be part of being Indian, but to me, I recognise it as Englishness. It's the common conceptions, the shared assumptions - we know assumptions are bad, m'kay? But we make them, and it to some extent it's nice when you know the other party is making them too. The same inquisitiveness. The same borrowing habit. The unrelenting flippancy. The inured mocking of anyone and everyone, with the knowledge that no-one will take it seriously. There is no offence unless truly intended. The respect of knowledge, of culture, of life (the idea of tearing pages out of a book is a mortifying as wantonly tearing limbs from a plant or animal). The expectation of cynicism; there is more than one truth.

I know it was probably a bit crass of me to say it (but it had just come after mutual "people often think I'm Spanish/Arab [her/me]") and I was using it as shorthand to mean I don't have to worry near her. I know whatever happens will be understood, and similar answers found. Nothing ever needs explaining. The only mistakes are borne of accent (and even then it's pretty evenly split). Anyway, she even said "Touch wood" and did, and I'm the only person I know who actually does that. As someone else commented (ok, I read it somewhere, but can't remember where) India's much like England, only with more servants.

It's just a question of sense and sensibility. And she's the one who's read that.

The only think I can think of to object to is her bemusement over the prevalence and popularity of mango chutney in England. Obviously she's never had turkey stretching towards twelfth night.

- In essence, I've found I like speaking bollocks.

[And once again, I broke away from posting and Kubla-Khanned*. So anyway...]

So Monday was intimately acquainted with both neighbours, Tuesday was making free with the free wine, followed by a sobering Indian, Wednesday was a film (Hitchcock not Orange this time), Thursday was Shrove Tuesday and Friday I'm in love (which song was that?). Ok, so Friday is being tired and typing this, wanting to go out but not having anyone to do it with, any energy, or any money. Instead I'm listening to music I don't recognise by bands I've forgotten. Anyone else ever heard of Turn? Can't think why you haven't. I can't quite remember who they were supporting when I saw them, and was so impressed that I went home and ordered the CD, which was out of stock, and took four months to arrive, by which time I'd forgotten them.

It must have been Idlewild, because they were dire, so the support would look good. But now I'm trying to think of which band had such dismal support that everyone sat in the bar until they came on. I think it was the Dum Dums (another anyone remember them?), who played to a half-empty Lemmy because it was after the end of term (good use of a university venue in a university dominated town there then).

But I think that's enough pointlessness for now.


* Kubla-Khanned, Kubla-Khaned, Kublakhanned or Kublakhaned:
- The act of forgetting a train of thought or aim mid-process, or the results of such activity. Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan, contains a distinct shift in tone and form resulting an interruption during its composition.
- A state of intoxication, referring to Coleridge's opium use and impact on his works.

Im assuming this is the Pancake Indian?

Is she actually Indian, or British-Asian?

So did you imply she was a "coconut"?
Or did she accidently think you were implying she was a "coconut"?
And do you know what a "coconut" is?

Tell us more, tell us more!
The Pancake Indian? Did I actually say the pancakes were for someone Indian? But, yes, they were and she was.

Indian Indian (hence mentioning the Dehli-ite later).

Coconut: I don't know what a "coconut" is (other that something parfaitable). I'm guessing from the whole brown on the outside, white in the middle, thing that it means someone of South Asian origin who is overtly westernised, possibly to the extent of ignoring the culture of their kin. Or calling someone a coconut could just mean that they're a bit hairy for my taste.

More? You wish for more, boy? Never before has boy asked for more! And so forth with the endless Oliver misquotes. What precisely did you want to know.

WV [obviously taking the piss]: kvmvmyqp (not helped by struggling to tell the if that's "in" or "m".
You mentioned it in an email.

And bravo - you were spot on with the "coconut" definition. (Not the hairy one.)

So what exactly did you say, and how did she react?

Your readers require more details!
So is there anything wrong with coconutting?

I don't really remember what I said; probably something along the lines of "but you're pretty much English anyway".

She gave me what can only be described as a look, went silent for a while, then managed to protest too much about Hinduism, the nefarious impact of invasion and suppression (despite ceding, apropos of nothing, that it did unite the groups on the subcontinent and give them the mechanisms for becoming an independent body), then realised she was protesting too much, tried to change the subject and somehow led herself back to it. During all this I said remarkably little.

So while I used it as lazy shorthand meaning I don't have to worry near her, her reaction suggests there is more truth in the phrase than initially intended. And probably the tendency to reject external buttonholing (or do I mean pigeonholing? I think I do) is fairly English. Note that I said English, not British, thereby underlining my own irrational "I'm not X, I'm Y", despite Y by default being a subset of X in this case. And please don't ask me who the Europeans are.

But what would you call someone who touches wood?
A Woodpecker?

I touch wood when I say touch wood. So does my sister. I didn't think it was particularly rare for people to do that.

But yes, in general your average Indian would be offended by being called a coconut.
I know I get annoyed when my friend winds me up with it. (But on the other hand, my cousin calls me a "cigarette" - white on the outside, brown on the inside. I cant see why though, and I wish he would find a better word.)
And how does having an uncle Richard make me any less Asian?

I guess its because by being called a coconut you're being acused of being an outcast. (Thats a lot of being!)

There isn't actually anything wrong with it if the culture or religion of your kin doesnt really matter to you. But as the stereotype of Indians having strong cultural ties suggests, there aren't many who it doesn't matter to.

And I suppose its also to do with not being of British origin. The parents generation fear that by bringing their children up in the UK, they will lose aspects of their culture. But that is inevitable.

Anyway, im tired and rambling, but basically, its a widely used term amongst Asians, and, not so much a "big thing", but a definately a "thing".

And her reaction was, whilst being hillarious, I imagine quite common to most in such a situation.

And I've just remembered.
Sultanas. EW!
In curry? EWW!!

WV - oiqxcwuz - is this a joke? Its late, im coffee-less and its blurry...or maybe thats me.
But a woodpecker would be something which pecks wood, wouldn't it? (And while I'm at it, WTF is a woodchuck? I've never known).

Touching wood; well, other than being a comment on internal furnishing (as in order to avoid embarrassment to guests, all rooms should contain easily accessible wood), it also suggests a certain exposure to, and possibly immersion in, English culture. Unless there is a direct equivalent in Gujarati, it suggests the user has collected it from what is essentially an alien culture, and if they've picked that up, what else have they gained?

But I'm not sure I meant a complete abandonment native [wrong, possibly controversial word, too tired to care] culture, simply the inclusion of Englishness into a person. You can be English without being clad in Levi and Gap (yes, I know, but I was using it as an example of international western brands which feed into the whole anglophone, anglosaxon hegemony, or whatever the hell you want to call it). You can be English in salwar kameez; although some people might call the salwar culottes.

Uncle Richard? I'm assuming the families involved are a bit traditional when it comes to naming, so Richard is probably English (or thereabouts). If he married one of your parent's sisters, then it wouldn't make you English (dodgy visa deals excepted). I assume you mean he married in rather than his sibling married into your family. Anyway, I've got a Texan aunt (and technically mid-Atlantic cousins), but that doesn't automatically confer membership of the NRA.

I'm still trying to better the cigarette imagine, but unfortunately I'm getting distracted by the thought that from the knees downwards you are orange. And the only other white on the outside, brown in the middle thing I can think of is a roll of loo paper, which isn't quite specific enough, and raises the possibility that you might be Apricot Blush on the outside. So cigarette or bog-roll; you decide.

Sultanas: yes.
Bear in mind this country invented mincemeat, and it used to have actual meat in it (rather than just suet).

Ditto tired, late, coffee-less, but add more -ers.
This just in: apparently touching wood is a Christian religious reference to the cross, hence a non-Indian thing. And no we dont have a direct equivalent. So yes you're right, its a result of immersion in an alien culture.
And we most certainly have gained much more, but thats what you should do, keep as much of your culture as is possible, whilst adopting that of your country.

Yes, Richard married my dads youngest sister, but no, no dodgy visas.

Ha! Orange below the knees. Didn't think of that. But its still better than loo-roll.

P.S. Watch Russell Peters via ObAz, je pense que vous l'aimerez.
Touch wood: or it's just it/tag.

Adopting culture: and so back to the English thing of gaining the best bits of every culture we encounter (Dutch banking systems for example).

RusPet: I tried watching a bit of him when you first mentioned it, but my computer went a bit funny about Google Video, so didn't watch it all.

je pense que vous l'aimerez: du hast gestudiet Frankisch vor recentisch als ich. This message brought to you by Conjugations: Get-togethers for jugs.

That makes no sense as it's late, and I'm tired.


[Anyhoo awaits the clanking as the cash pours out of the fruit machine].

I made that out to be "you have health something forward something as I"

Am I anywhere close? And what were the somethings?
Hurrah for Denglish (or do I mean Eutsch?). Anyway, what I meant to say, and what I attempted to say via the medium of half-remembered and occasionally outright made up words, was: You have studied French more recently than I have.

You've also apparently done more, and better, German than I have.
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