Adventures in Paris
Hi James, and everyone else,
I'm worried that you didn't receive Friday, James. I wonder if I emailed her to the wrong person by mistake. If any readers have received a small, cruel, but very beautiful cat as an email attachment, please shove her into the socket in the back of your computer and email her back to me pronto! If I have to tell Lottie that I've emailed her cat to a stranger, she'll be livid.
Sorry to hear that you were so short of money in Paris, James, but glad to hear you had a good time there anyway. Your story reminded me of the time I first visited Paris. I was nineteen years old, and I was spending a month travelling around Europe on the train with a group of my friends. Of course, like most nineteen year olds, we were pretty skint. Paris was the first city we visited, and we soon realised that we didn't have enough money for a meal and a bed for the night; we had to choose one or the other. We chose to spend our money on food, and after our meal we decided to spend the night at one of the main railway stations in Paris, the Gare du Nord, because we had to catch a train from that station the next morning. Admittedly, spending the night on a railway station was a pretty stupid plan, but we were nineteen-year-olds from a provincial English town, and we were quite naïve. Of course, I woke up in the morning to find that my rucksack had been stolen, with all my clothes and other belongings inside it. It was a pretty bad moment. But the rucksack and its contents were insured, so I just went out and bought a new rucksack and some new clothes, and we continued our trip and had a wonderful time.
In fact, every time I go to Paris, terrible things happen to me - either I get robbed, or I have terrible transport problems, or something like that. These days I avoid Paris. Note to Parisians: please don't misunderstand me, I don't dislike your beautiful city at all. However, for some reason, your city dislikes me. If anyone can explain this strange phenomenon, I'd be very grateful.
Ana Paula, I'm glad to hear you're enjoying 'Waiting for Godot' so much - it's hilarious, isn't it? You and Leila both asked a question about a particular word which appears in this book, and I'll try to answer it, though I'll have to be careful as this is the BBC and the word is a little, ahem, salty. The word is 'ballocks'. That's actually the Irish spelling; in Britain, we would replace the 'a' with an 'o'. Normally it's a plural noun; a man has two of these items, and a woman doesn't have any. However, like most salty words in English, it can have many many different meanings, and I can't say exactly what it means in the sentence you quoted unless you give me a bit more context. If you write the whole sentence in a comment, I'll try to give you an accurate definition.
By the way, Leila, there’s no need to apologise for your question. It’s important to learn this kind of English too!
Romana from Italy asked about my use of the phrase so I shall. This is another example of one of the slightly old-fashioned turns of phrase which I sometimes like to use. In contemporary English, the word ‘shall’ is really only used for making offers or suggestions, in questions such as,
Shall I open the window?
Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
However, in my last blog I wrote this sentence:
Well, I promised to tell you about ‘Dans le Noir’, the pitch-black restaurant, and so I shall.
In this rather antiquated usage, ‘and so I shall’ means something like, ‘and I will do that.’
Ruth from Jilin in China asked me what I ate at ‘Dans le Noir’. The starter was some kind of shellfish, the main course was also fish (I think it might have been tuna) with vegetables and rice, and the dessert was a little bowl of ice-cream. Amazingly, it all went into my mouth, and none of it ended up on my suit.
Alexey from Russia asked about other strange places in London – sadly, Alexey, there aren’t very many. For our next night out, my friends and I are planning to go to a ‘Punk Rock Karaoke’, where members of the audience can get up on stage and sing (or scream) old punk songs in front of a live band (I’m planning to sing ‘Ace of Spades’ by Motorhead – do any of our readers know that sweet and beautiful song?). I liked your idea of ‘swimming pools with strange water’ very much, Alexey. What do you think they should put in the water?
Once again, I’d like to say thanks to everyone for all your comments. Please keep ’em coming!
All the best,
To shove means to push.
Pronto is a word we’ve borrowed from the Italian language. We use it to mean ‘immediately’ or ‘very quickly’.
The adjective livid means furious or very angry.
Skint is also an adjective – this time an informal one. If you’re skint, you don’t have money.
Provincial is another adjective. The word ‘provincial’ is often used to describe towns, and it means that this town is far from the centre of a country’s cultural life. It’s rather a negative word; it suggests ‘unsophisticated’ or even ‘small-minded’. We can also describe people as ‘provincial’.
Naïve is yet another adjective. If you are unrealistic, and you believe too easily that the world is a sweet, happy, friendly place, then you could be described as naïve.
Your belongings are the things which belong to you.
Salty is, of course, the adjective related to the noun ‘salt’, and we can use it to describe taste. However, when we describe language as ‘salty’, this means that it’s rude or impolite. I believe this is because, in the old days, sailors had a reputation for using bad language.
A turn of phrase is really just an alternative way of saying ‘a phrase’.
The adjective antiquated means very old, or old-fashioned.
Finally, ’em is a common informal abbreviation of ‘them’.
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