Pleased as Punch, in that resinous phrase, that in my first days in Spain I worked out how to say, spelling notwithstanding, “Cafe descafinado con leche, por favor – cafe machinata – muy calliente, y con miele.” This is my strenous coffee order, what Melbourne baristas sneeringly call “the why bother” – in order to convey ‘honey’ I first had to mime little fluttering motions with my elbows trapped by my sides, saying repeatedly ‘azucar, non azucar’ (sugar, not sugar)… When I finally spotted a squeezer of honey on the shelf and pointed to it, the assembled staff turned to each other and started mimicking my mime, going, “Ahhhh, *miele*…”
I love languages but know none apart from German, decayed Bahasa Indonesia, and some shreds of truly pathetic French. But Spanish is glorious. I learned yesterday from some friends who run a bookshop that ‘vacuum cleaner’ is, in English translation, ‘the aspirator’ – that which inhales everything. But let’s not get too carried away – to use that other, far less celebratory phrase: as far as I’m concerned, Nature abhors a vacuum. And I’m with Nature.