In which PM shows how good a student of Russian she is...

>> Monday, 7 November 2011

The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted a reference in one of last week's posts to the fact that we moved house recently. Not far - 200m, to be precise - but it is a different house, it did require a total boxing up of all our possessions (so they could rattle precariously from one side of the compound to the other on the back of a flatbed truck), and, of course, now that we're in, it also requires a number of visits from The Workmen.

Because, you see, we are not allowed to do anything to our house ourselves.
A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. And 'anything' not only includes sorting out shower curtains and putting up shelves; even knocking in picture hooks and changing lightbulbs would put us in breech of contract.


I've been through this before of course, when we first moved here, so you would think I would be prepared for it all, but honestly? Not so much. My Russian, I'm afraid to admit, has not improved that much since the last time - nearly two years ago - that we moved into a house. I'm handier with a dictionary now than I was then, but otherwise... And the workmen's attitude to me has similarly not improved. I thought I was imagining it, but was lucky enough to be visited by an English Russian-speaking neighbour during one of their recent sessions here. "It's shocking how they shout at you just because you don't understand them so well" she said before she left. Which, now I come to think of it, is probably how English workmen treat Russians in the UK, so I guess there's some cosmic payback going on here.

In any case, I was going to treat you to another of my interpretations of what the Russian Workmen might be talking about in an alternate reality, but realised that I actually I've already done that, so instead I am going to cheat and reproduce what I wrote about this in February 2010...

It's just before 9.00am and the kitchen is currently full of Russian workmen, replacing our new - and broken - washing machine with an old - unbroken - one. Lots of instructions are being bandied backwards and forwards, one of the guys has his head under the kitchen sink and is making a muffled commentary from there, and every now and then there is a worrying silence, punctuated only by the wheezing sighs of habitual smokers. As I type, the dishwasher has been pulled out (please god, no! Don't take the dishwasher!) and the tumble dryer is being balanced precariously on top of it.

Frankly it's the sort of thing which, if I owned any of the appliances they are currently messing about with would give me kittens, but since I don't, I'm just enjoying the show.

The thing is, in my non-Russian speaking bubble, right now I have no idea what's going on. For all I know, the conversation could be as follows:

Young Mild-Mannered Foreman: "Come on guys. I know it's early but we need to get this sorted out."

Workman #1: "That's easy for you to say. You haven't got at dishwasher balancing on your head. What did the stupid cow do to break the washing machine anyway?"

Workman #2: "God knows. These westerners and their crazy wash-every-day ideas. Every one knows you don't need clean clothes every day. No wonder the damn thing's broken "

Silence, broken only by panting and puffing...

Workman #3 (head under the sink): "Would it be out of the question to light up a quick fag, do you think?"

Workman #4: "Better not. You know how arsy they get about that type of thing. Not a decent ashtray in the place as far as I can see. Somebody pass me the monkey wrench?"

Workman #2 "What am I, your servant? Get it yourself, Comrade!"

Workman 4: "Comrade? That's behind us now. I don't need to answer to you, commissar."

Mild-Mannered Foreman: "Hey! Hey! Stop with the political discussions and eyeing up the chocolate biscuits and pass him the monkey wrench for pete's sake. We're all new Russians now. Right. One, two, three, lift..."

Workman #1: "Watch out for the laminate flooring! It's brand new! We didn't take up the perfectly decent parquet for you to scratch Ikea's finest laminate that we replaced it with."

Silence and more wheezing...

Workman 3: "OK. One previously perfect Samsung out - one slightly ropy Ariston alternative in. Give it a wipe down with your handkerchief, comrade, and let's be off."

Workman 2: "Let's see how long it takes the Western Imperialists idiots to break this one with their compulsive washing habits... We do know she doesn't understand us, I take it?"


London City Mum 7 November 2011 at 14:50  

Oh dear PM. Two years on and no improvement in your Russian?
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Of course *I* would be standing there with a audio version of google translate... although not quite sure how that works when I have no idea how to write Cyrillic characters, much less spell the language.

Italian hand gestures? Anyone?


p.s. if you are in London CALL ME (am presuming you have time to meet up for a coffee at least, of course!?)

nappy valley girl 7 November 2011 at 18:56  

Loved this post the first time and it still made me laugh.
So why the move? After all that time installing the Ikea flooring?

MsCaroline 7 November 2011 at 22:42  

I suspect the same thing is going on every time the Korean workmen come to our apartment, except that I'm sure they're using the polite, honorific form of 'stupid cow.'

What to Pack in Hospital Bag,  28 November 2012 at 22:56  

Loved this post, made me smile

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