The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead…

An uber-confident and instantly dislikable fop minced over to me at a party and, without introducing himself or asking my name boldly stated: ‘I can deduce what type of person you are with five simple questions.’

Perturbed by his arrogance I vowed to thwart him. ‘I doubt that very much, but go for your life.’

He adjusted his annoying quiff and began. ‘Question One. What do you do for a living?’

‘I’m a wizard.’

‘A wizard?’

‘Is this your second question?’

‘No, but you’re a wizard?’

‘Yes, I write spells and mix potions.’

‘OK.’ He wasn’t so sure of himself now. ‘Question Two. How do you feel when you hear an ambulance siren?’

‘Aroused.’

He didn’t bother asking the other three questions. Perhaps my desire not to be pigeon-holed by a complete stranger made me a little bolshie, but I very much enjoyed the experience of two diametrically opposed people meaninglessly firing words at each other and not connecting on any level.

Many years ago whilst on holiday a Thai tour guide informed me that he was learning English and asked if he could try out a few phrases. I was facinated to know how another culture would approach learning our own language and welcomed the prospect. His teaching companion was a coverless, dog-eared tome. Opening it at a random page he proclaimed that ‘Every part of my body is in pain.’

I wasn’t sure how this sentence would ever be useful to him, or more precisely, if he did find himself in need of it then a limited grasp of the local dialect was likely to be the least of his worries. ‘Which part hurts the most?’ I asked.

‘I don’t understand,’ he replied.

He tried another page. ‘Excuse me my good man, could you tell me where I can purchase a box camera.’

‘You need to throw this book away,’ I cautioned, ‘No good can come of it.’

He shrugged and shook his head. ‘I’m sorry…I…er…’

I felt no small amount of guilt as we parted company; leaving him clutching the manuscript that would almost certainly lead to his being beaten up in the not two distant future.

Back in 2005 I went to Cuba with a couple of friends. Having got lost trying to find The Bay of Pigs (‘Bahia to Cochinos) I collared a hombre and enquired ‘Desculpe, donde es el bahia de cojones?’ which roughly translates as ‘Excuse me, where can I find the bay of bollocks?’ To his credit he kept a straight face, and his directions were surprisingly informative. He did however take offence when he overheard us referring to his farm animals as ‘communist pigs.’ (It’s a well known fact that communists don’t approve of satire, and are required to all have exactly the same sense of humour…which is a shame).

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