The all new Cecilie's Pen & Wok Blog
Spurred on by the success of my covid lockdown-enforced Spanish textbook Plonkers Abroad where I introduce the new learning method plonkerism (learning language through other people's hilarious mistakes), I have now started a new book.
Spanish for Dogs.
What? But dogs can't read, you may very well protest. No, not yet. But with Chat GPT? No, joke. It's not for dogs per se, but for dog owners. Or just people who like dogs. Or even for those freaks of nature, people who don't like dogs.
Because you see, all dog owners like people who want to talk about their beloved furry flatmate.
So I came up with this idea: Teaching the horrendous Spanish verbs (16 tenses PLUS genders and various other pitfalls) through conversations about dogs. I am using myself as a guinea pig, for I also need to extend my dog talking repertoire from my go-to "what's his name" and "how old is he."
So again, win-win! For if you want to learn something, write a book about it, as some wise philosopher without doubt has said.
We will revisit the witless family Smith, last seen tearing off their idiotic face covers, getting a dog and moving into a house, but also meet lots of other people with and without dogs. Watch this space! And send in suggestions!
If you're not learning Spanish but Cantonese, don't despair. I'm writing a new, more family friendly course (as in, less alcohol and swearing) and will fit in lots of dogs there too.
Then you can easily learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian.
Today's Cantonese: 我好鍾意狗仔 - o hou jungyi gau tsai - I well like dog-ettes/ I love dogs
Take the Spanish language, with which I'm still grappling.
When I was teaching Cantonese in Hong Kong, I always told my students they wouldn't really have to study as long as they spoke Cantonese to Chinese people every day. I was right too, because that's how I learnt Cantonese. OK, so I spent hours a day learning Chinese characters, but that's different and just fun.
But what do I do now? Do I follow my own advice? Well yes, of course I speak Spanish every day; to neighbours, shop keepers and so on. But I don't sit down and play cards with Spanish guys for example. I don't spend hours and hours talking to them on a train thundering through the mainland. Instead I study on Duolingo! Boooring. But I mean, 16 tenses of the verb!
I think up until now, deep inside I felt I was being disloyal to Hong Kong and China if I started enjoying Mallorca, the Spanish culture and all it has to offer. Perhaps I thought by some miracle I could live both there and here.
But this week, after five years in the country, something happened.
First I went to the Arts Society's monthly talk on arty things. I almost didn't go, for unlike other events I had been to, such as the one about Picasso and vastly overrated Joan Miró, I had never heard about the artist in question. It was Joaquin Sorolla (1863 - 1923).
Why the HELL hadn't I heard of him? After all, he painted at the same time as the Skagen painters whom I adore, and knew them. What ignorance on my part! But the superb lecturer Jacqueline Cockburn did mention that he wasn't that well known outside the USA (!) because American galleries had wisely snapped up all his stuff, more or less before the paint had dried on the canvas. Small wonder.
Oh, what a painter. How is it possible to show sunlight like that, clearer and more lifelike than in a photograph? I immediately wanted to go to Madrid, see his gaff and find out more. And I wanted to go around Spain like Sorolla had done, to see all the villages exactly like he had, only with more cars and Germans. I came out of the venue looking at Spain with new and favourable eyes.
Then, only a few days later, I took my writer colleague E to a nearby restaurant, established in 1970 and with not a thing changed since then. We sat at the bar, not tucked away at some corner table, and nibbled at the best tapas I have tasted since the excellent but unfortunately named Hostal Corona turned into Japanese fusion.
And when this geezer suddenly started playing Spanish guitar with many flourishes and another geezer joined in with the most beautiful singing voice, I thought: YES. I want to live here.
Yes, I want to learn Spanish and Spanish songs. I immediately got on Wordle Español and solved it in three tries, sent it to my new friend Veronica from Uruguay and said "let's meet!"
And this morning walking Koldbrann past the military compound near the excellently curated military museum where no one I know has ever been, I suddenly heard it for the first time: The Spanish national anthem!
Now you may wonder how I knew it was the Spanish national anthem when I had never heard it before, but I just knew. Also it coincided with two guys leisurely hoisting the Spanish flag inside a military compound, so what else could it be? I took it as a huge sign that something had shifted and that I now live in Spain. In exile, but with joy.
Amazingly, the same week I also got some new Cantonese students - there must be a connection. For of course, the real purpose of my life is still to make Cantonese a world language. That goes without saying. But I can enjoy life more while doing it, right?
Unfortunately the staff at IKEA, oblivious to dozens of people sleeping away for hours in various beds and sofas, were very eagle eyed when it came to video cameras on tripods. So the script I had laboured over for days, well, hours, about how my character Ah-Mok moved into IKEA because his own bed wasn't comfortable enough, and Lydia's character Ah-Wai reported him to the police, had to be scrapped. Another transgression by the nanny state.
(Below is another film starring the above mentioned geezers.)
However! Not before I had experienced one of my top ten moments in my life EVAH. For as Lydia and I were about to change out of our costumes in IKEA's very clean and comfortable ladies' toilet, I heard a female voice from the doorway, saying in Canotnese: "What... what? Is this also the men's toilet? How can it be?"
Reader, she had spotted ah-Mok in all his moustachioed splendour:
This happened in 2009, and in this as in so many other things, we were prescient. For only a few years later, actually in the last five minutes or so, it has become a thing!
Just like I could put on a moustache and be a man in the women's toilet, men are now putting on dresses, "identifying" as a woman, and using the ladies'! Without being arrested!
And not only that. Trying and failing to win as a man in various sports like swimming and weightlifting, these 250 pound, 6 foot 5 gorillas are now cleaning up in women's sports. All they have to do is put on a dress, take some hormones (or not), and Bob is their (female) uncle! Victory is secured! If the girls and women complain, they are pilloried for being "transphobic".
Talk about win-win. Not only do the MEN get to engage in and be praised for their sexual perversion autogynephilia, but they get to win at sports, rape women in women's prisons, expose themselves to girls in locker rooms with impunity, and even receive Brave Women of the Year awards, advertise for female products like make-up and tampons - all while living as a protected species, on top of the woke hierarchy.
Ordinary mortals are supposed to call the hairy-sacked, gravel voiced, penis dangling creatures "she/her" - and they do! With a straight face!
These people will do well to remember how the Soviet Union and other tyrannies (no, not "trannies," that's not allowed to write anymore) were created: One lie at a time.
“And therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies! Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!”
Well, cowardly guys, you think you're so clever, but remember, ah-Mok and ah-Wai did it first! And much more believably.
In Cantonese of course, he and she is the same word. One of many reasons why it's safe even for the most virtue signalling wokeist to Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
If you start out with 50 euros, for example, and pay for a meal in a restaurant, say, this many per cent will go to the bank. And when the restaurant owner wants to buy some new tablecloths or lightbulbs, also paying by card, he again will have a few centimos taken off, and he must pay for having the bank account and for the card, and when the lightbulb manufacturer wants to buy a new machine or whatever, he must pay for the bank's "services" (I put the word "service" in extremely heavy air quotes when it comes to banks) and so on, until the initial 50 euros is worth only 3 or 4.
With cash, on the other hand, a 50 is a 50 is a 50, no matter how many times it changes hands. No one is charging you for using it. The next person you give it to, will also own 100% of it.
So why have people fallen for this idea that using a card and paying more for each transaction that it actually costs, is such a good idea? The only ones benefitting from this use of cards, are the banks.
"But it's so convenient", people say. Really? I, for one, have spent more hours out of my ever shortening life waiting at shop check-out counters for people whose cards are playing up, than for any other reason. When the card isn't working - how embarrassing! Has it been blocked, or is it the supermarket's fault? Try another card, then another, add another five minutes to my waiting time - who cares as long as it's so very convenient?
Cash, on the other hand, works, every time. Come rain, snow and electric outages, cash works.
In fact, in many places in Norway they just don't 'accept' (as if it was a dirty political opinion) cash at all. Their loss! I'll just go somewhere else then.
Interestingly, it's only Norwegians who laugh at me for using cash. So old fashioned! So embarrassing to be seen with someone like me in a restaurant - what if a waiter lifts an eyebrow? Fortunately I live in Spain, where cash is always welcome.
As if I didn't know it before, a trip to England a few years ago really brought it home how important it is to have cash. I couldn't find a bank at the airport when I landed, so all I had was euros, a credit card and a bank card. I'll get money out of a cash point, I thought. But disaster, no cash point accepted UnionPay! Gritting my teeth, I had to use my credit card all the way, throwing free money at the bank.
At one stage I was in Torquay, stopping at a coffee shop to get out of the rain, and had a bowl of soup, which cost 4.50 or 5 pounds.
Oh, the machine is broken, so you can't pay with credit card. What?!? OK, Euros then. No, impossible. Well, it's all I have. In the end I had to give them 10 euros without getting change. Grrrr.
The very next day I was on a train back to London, buying a coffee and sandwich. Oh no, the machine doesn't work (because the train is moving) - sorry! A very very kind woman stepped in and paid for me - with cash. See, that's embarrassing.
Cash is king. Cash is also beautiful, decorative. I like to look at other countries' banknotes.
Another thing which is king, is Cantonese! Like cash, it's a ticket to creating smiles and happiness everywhere, like a supermarket checkout person when you give her the right money in notes and coins. If you can speak even 10 words of Cantonese, you will be treated like a dear and illustrious guest; something of a rock star in fact.
And now you can learn Hong Kong style Cantonese almost free on the electric internet!
At least indoors.
Yesterday morning, for example, it was 4 degrees celcius outside and this morning an even less palatable 2. Normal people don't go out at that time of course, preferring to stay in as long as they can, but they are rewarded with daytime temperatures of more than a very acceptable 20 degrees, in the sun and out of the wind that is.
Outdoors can be "Decent day in July in Norway". Indoors: "Death camp Siberia".
The houses here seem to be built solely for that one month a year when it does get a bit hot. The bricks are hollow and - and this is the kicker - the floors are covered in huge, shiny tiles. At least this is the case with my gaff and most others I have been in. These floors work like enormous fridges turned inside out; so cold that you can't walk on them barefoot. On the other hand you can just put foodstuffs straight on them and turn off the fridge.
When I moved into my new place two years ago, I fell in love with the air and light, the large kitchen with a gas cooker and the beautiful view from my office - so in love that I forgot to look down.
Down was - how can I say this without sounding like I'm criticising other people's taste in interior decorating from 1975 - "interesting". Yes, an "interesting" cacophony swirl of browns and oranges, so "colourful" that no other colour went with it and most of my furniture and objects drowned, pushed into a sea of 70s.
With no indoor heating I soon found myself living in a fridge, but then April came and I forgot all about it. Still, it seems a bit counter intuitive to wear two jumpers and tights indoors, only to go outside and see people walking around in T-shirts.
But this winter I have two secret weapons. I'll do the second one first:
These, shall we say polar jackets you can walk in, are so comfortable and warm that I have been able to experiment with wearing only thick trousers without tights underneath! Because as all women know, tights are the worst pieces of clothing ever invented.
But my secret weapon number 1 A plus +++ is: AARON!
I just couldn't live with that floor for so many reasons, so, without having done it before, he first put down a so-called click clack fake wood floor in my office, and then a blissful grey rubber tiles in the living rooms. Now I can look down again without puking, and my furniture and beautiful objects are once again visible! And most importantly, the indoor temperature has risen noticeably.
This morning it was 2 degrees outside as I said, but I could happily skip and dance to the bathroom in just bare feet and underwear. I had a proper floor, installed by an expert! But more than being just a master craftsman, Aaron is reliable, punctual and intelligent.
He is available for jobs on Mallorca, and he specialises in wood and carpentry but seems to be a dab hand at absolutely everything he tries. He also put up an awning for me last summer to keep the living room cool. That, sadly, has been totally unnecessary since October. So don't give me that "it's so hot" thing. It's PLEASANT, then unbearably cold, is what it is. Unless you have my secret weapons.
Another secret weapon is of course Cantonese. Learning only a few words puts you in a category head and shoulders above almost everyone else on earth, and also keeps dementia at bay!
This category contains episodes of the CantoNews From Exile podcast.