Monday, 26 January 2009

Suffled how it Gush by Katerin Xhonson

I know I'm lucky being a writer. Apart from the hours - John Dougherty mentioned this the other day - and the working conditions and the joy when you get a story or even a sentence just right, I am so lucky because right now, while you're reading this, I am in Athens. Thank you lovely British Council. I am writing this before I go so I hope it goes well, and since I don't have any Greek anecdotes yet I will share some from my previous British Council trip four years ago, to Tirana, Albania.
It was fabulous. I was leading sparky and scarily fluent in English Albanian school students in a week of writing workshops. They were all brilliant of course, and inspiring and Tirana was amazing. Post Communist craziness, car drivers who had never had to take driving tests, fantastic soviet era state museums, huge and empty of people, filled with beautiful, breathtaking artefacts, but with wild dogs living in burrows in the grounds.
The Albanian mineral water was fabulous too - the English translation on the bottle read
'Suffled how it gush from the woods of Tepelene...'
The best thing though was being on Albanian national breakfast time TV.
The studio was in quite an up market part of town, near the embassies. Upstairs, the TV studios were frozen in time - I recognised the edit suites as ones I'd used in the early 80s. There was the breakfast TV set up familiar to all, a brightly coloured sofa and an orange skinned presenter. I sat on the sofa, ready to nod and smile - the British Council Librarian Aida, would do all the talking.
Out of shot on the over side of the studio in a mess of duct and cables two very young girls in leopard and tiger print jeans and tight t shirts sat on tall stools chewing gum the embodiment of bored teenager. I wondered what they were doing there.
I was introduced, I had my name in Albanian across the screen Katerin Xhonson, and I nodded and smiled. I didn't knock anything over or make a fool of myself. When my piece was over the camera swung round to the two chewing girls who had suddenly produced violins and began playing completely beautifully. The credits rolled.
They did the music.


lauren said...

I hope Athens is as good. I was in Albania in the midst of the Communist era (about 1989) and they didn't have colour TV then. The streets of Tirana were full of rats and the local bank had a stinging nettle as its pot plant. But the level of translation was about the same: I remember being shocked by a bus driver telling me proudly that all Albanian school children experience physical tampering every day. It took a while to work out it was 'tempering' and he meant PE!

AnneR said...

Sorry, that comment was not from Lauren, it was from me - she left my computer logged in to her account!

John Dougherty said...

I love eccentric translations (although they do make me worry a bit - see my entry, 'In Translators We Trust', back in July last year).

One of my current favourites comes from the toy my son got for Christmas - 'Operating Instructions' is translated as 'Handle Narrate'.

Anyway - have a lovely time in Athens, and looking forward to hearing a story or two in your next entry!

Katherine Langrish said...

yes - it will be a less rich world if accurate instant translation devices ever become commonplace. In Delphi a few years ago, we sat en famille in a cafe and studied a English language menu which included 'goat soup', 'pickled cock' and 'entrails on a stick'.

Joanna Kenrick said...

Oh that's so funny, because my parents were in Albania last year and also expressed much hilarity over the 'suffled' water!