A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Papa's colourful languages...

When I young, Papa often reeled the few German words he knew to coax into eating our meals: "Come on, Kartoffeln are good for you!"

During the Second World War, after the Allied landings in North Africa, our quiet town was swamped with foreign soldiers. Being close to the Tunisian border, our local French military hospital housed injured soldiers and among them a few Germans and Italians. One of these, Papa recalled, was a Wehrmacht soldier who had been wounded around Bizerte and brought back as prisoner of war.
Fritz spent months convalescing in Papa's ward and a cautious friendship developed between them. Papa found a stray kitten to keep Fritz company. He sometimes gave him fruit and vegetables from our farm.
Papa also tried to teach him a little French and in turn tried to learn a few German words. They sadly lost touch with each other after Fritz was moved to a secure prison camp.

Then the American GI's came through our town on their way to Tunisia and Sicily. The locals often reminisce about these giant soldiers who doled out chewing gum and chocolate bars to the cheering swarms of children who followed the jeeps bare feet across town.

A few years ago Papa came over to visit me in the UK after my mother passed away. He spent most of his time alone in the garden, probably thinking of my mother.
But one day, after lunch, as we sat at the dining table while my wife prepared the coffee, Papa scratched his head and tried to remember the few English words he had picked up during the war.

"Ha mucha dates?"
"Ha mucha oranges?” He mumbled in a funny Texan accent.
He explained that the GI's had often stopped to buy fresh produce from his fruiterer friend.

He sat there scratching his head, screwing his face, trying to dredge up buried memories. All of a sudden his eyes lit up "I know how to say "Go away" in American, you know!"

Before I could stop him he shouted: "Fuck off!" just as Karen walked into the dining room.

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Blogger Mary said...

Ha! I love it! Great story.

9/8/07 2:02 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

What a fantastic story about your Father. I can imagine your wife's face!

9/8/07 2:09 PM  
Blogger zoe said...

wonderful, cream - what a wonderful story!

9/8/07 2:18 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

great story!

9/8/07 3:32 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

great story!

9/8/07 3:32 PM  
Blogger Dip-Dop-Crabtree said...


It is a lot of these memories about which I spoke to you!! Engraved in your memory ...

Incommensurable est notre besoin de dire, même si nos paroles, emportées par le vent, iront buter contre les montagnes jusqu'à la perte du sens, jusqu'à faire des trous dans la roche et faire bouger les pierres lourdes ....( Tahar Ben Jelloun )

9/8/07 5:30 PM  
Blogger Chill Daddy said...

Is that how you say 'go away'? Hmmm... I'll have to restrain myself from telling my boss to go away.

9/8/07 7:18 PM  
Blogger fathorse said...


9/8/07 10:08 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Mary, I laugh every time I remember it.

Akela, she still laughs at Papa's red face.

Thanks, Z. Means a lot.

Hayden, twice! Thanks!

Thank you, Dip-Dop. Gravé dand ma mémoire.
La citation de Ben Jelloul est très profonde et pertinente.

CD, watch out for the fallout.

FH, glad you liked it.

10/8/07 9:52 AM  
Blogger Merisi said...

Talk about "lost in translation". :-)

10/8/07 11:14 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Merisi, I liked that film!

I have a feeling those GI's were sick of being hounded by screaming kids. So they can be forgiven for the slip.

10/8/07 11:40 AM  
Blogger cave renovator said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading that Cream with a smile at the end aswell.
Great post.

11/8/07 5:42 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, CR.
Hope you're not melting away.

11/8/07 6:10 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

I always love Papa stories and this I especially love!!! I love the part about the German soldier and about the Americans. Wonderful, Wonderful!!! He sure is a charmer...

12/8/07 7:25 PM  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed this story - it reminds me of how I've picked up words from different languages, it reminds me of my Dad too and the ending made me laugh!

12/8/07 9:26 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

HAHAHAHA I wonder if anybody later explained to Papa...

13/8/07 7:58 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, Val.
Friendships have no border control.

CGP, welcome. It's true that the first words one learns in a new language are the rude ones...

Gigi, I couldn't. I just said that it was rude because I have too much respect for Papa to explain to him exactly what the words meant.
I have never ever said a rude word in front of him... not even ship!

14/8/07 11:42 AM  

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