There follows the awkwardness of strangers speaking different languages. A slow thick muffler of voice: soft, lazy-sounding, losing vowel stresses; slipping and sliding into consonants. Losing syllables.
Mum gave up. I could tell from her panicked glaze-y stare. Dad hadn’t a clue what was being said and was nodding at the wrong bits.
Yoew foun’ us sen? said with a knowing smile…he’d been watching all the while we’d been reversing across the valley… App’n yoew wer los’…ee? another smile.
Reet gran’ de fereet. Tha’ mun cum Mundi. ‘Tit reined n reined… ‘ave thou bin long? In’t’car leik?
Deep breath, I thought. Listen. And watch. For the cues of smile and eye glance; the tilt of head. The Glottal stop.
I was going too fast. I was on Glaswegian time. This man, this gentle smiling man, needed my ears to slow down. Slow down. 45 rpm v 78 rpm…
But there’s an international language of smile which serves for the absence of known words. Buying time.
And finally…the steady even rhythm of meaning got louder…became clearer. Was heard through the din of unmet expectation. The thick soupy fog of ‘wrong’ syllable accent and lost ‘t’ cleared. I could see him. I could hear the words. The everyday greetings. The courtesies.
Bedrooms up there. Three bathrooms. Don’t drink the tapwater – it comes from the hills and isn’t safe. Here are the keys. Two sets. If you need anything we’re just there. Our lass n mesen.
We’d come to the end of introductions. There was a small silence. He turned to go. And out of the silence Ana piped up, Iz that man German or somethin’….
*apologies to my pals from Yorkshire….