Sunday, 10 October 2010

Workers' Playtime

In Frankfurt last week, it dawned on me that my plan to learn better German by watching White Ribbon over and over again may have been mildly flawed. As it turned out, there was very little call for the phrases, "Could you take a fish to my father?", "White is the colour of purity", "I hate you and your breath stinks" and "Now you have really disappointed me: please fetch the cane" during my 24-hour stay. As a result, I have switched my attention to Hungarian and am now attempting to improve my understanding of that language through close study of a book of grammar that was printed in 1961. The current lesson I am working on contains this evocative dialogue:

"The Trade Union Congress - Arrival

- Budapest, Keleti Railway Station!
- What time is it?
- Half past nine. The train is already here.
- What a lot of people are here - travellers, porters, railway workers!
- Look! There are the Hungarian comrades!
- Hello. I am ironworker Joseph Kovacs. These men on my right are miners and these men on my left are textile workers. Are you ironworkers or miners?
- I am the only one who is an ironworker; they are all miners, and that comrade there is a Soviet newspaper reporter.
- And, you, lady comrade, are you also a newspaper reporter?
- No, I'm not a reporter; I'm an English textile worker.
- Hello, we are Czechoslovak ironworkers.
- Are you Canadian ironworkers?
- Yes, we are ironworkers from Montreal.
- And you, dear comrade, are you the delegate from the Bulgarian trade union congress?
- Yes, I am.
- Are you Bulgarian as well?
- No, I am a Rumanian engineer.
- Is that person over there an Austrian newspaper journalist?
- Yes, that's him there. He works on a Vienna paper.
- But where are the Poles? Aren't there any Polish workers here?
- But of course, here we are!
- Are there no French miners with us?
- Yes, there are some, there at the back.
- And where are the Italian comrades?
- They are over there on the left.
- How many trade union delegates from England are there?
- There are two delegates from England, eight from Poland, five from Czechoslovakia and four from Canada. The three delegates from France are miners. There is one Austrian journalist and one Soviet journalist.
- And the Canadians and the Czechs - what do they do?
- They are railway workers. The Italians are textile workers and the Poles are ironworkers.
- Where are the comrades from London and from Vienna?
- The comrades from London are here at the front, the comrades from Vienna are up the back, and these young miners are Bulgarians."

Happy days (hem hem).


  1. The Canadians and the Czechoslovaks are first of all described as ironworkers then later as railway workers. I suspect they're neither.

  2. The one to be careful of is the Soviet newspaper reporter, I think.

  3. I feel that this will serve you well in your future travels in the fleshpots of the capitalist West.

  4. When buying multiple tiny screwdrivers, for example - for a now (post M. de Farge's ministrations - or did he do a wonderful job?) defunct Mac?