van Gogh- Olive trees 1I met my neighbour today. He saw me bringing my wheelie-bin in, and followed me. So I went in my back door, and he stood on the mat, looking in, making wordless sounds. I told him he could come in if he wanted. This is my bicycle. He tapped the light, which was just below head-height on him. Then his grandmother came round after him, and called him out, scolding him, and apologising to me.

-He asked, and I said ‘yes’, I said, to excuse him.
-Sorry, no speak English, she said. At least she wasn’t accusing me of being a pervert.

His toys, a beautiful big lorry and an ambulance, were on a rug outside, as it was so warm, with his older sister’s tricycle.

At the bus stop, a lad was complaining about someone else at the college. “He said, ‘you said “Death be upon you!”‘ That’s stupid, fam. He doesn’t understand Arabic, he doesn’t have a clue, fam. My dad speaks Arabic.

“You could tell him anything! You could tell him Bismillah [in the Name of God] meant anything you like, and he would believe you. If you say Salaam Aleikum he says Salaam Aleikum.” Rather than van Gogh- Olive trees 2Wa-aleikum O-salaam, or indeed Slamakum- well, “Goodbye” is contracted from God be with you, then further to ‘bye. That was the first time I was aware of Muslims locally, there is a large Hindu temple on Victoria St and when it has come up Asians have been Hindu.

Not sure about the word “fam”. I guessed it meant something like calling a friend Family, close friend I can trust: to my mind, a need to keep telling someone “I trust you” implies something else, and also implies that those guys over there can’t be trusted, it’s just you an me, bro.

How do you spell ‘bide’? asked the child. Mmm. It is an odd word for a child, a bit archaic, dialecty, not a word I thought he would get in primary school. “As in I buy a toy”. Oh, it’s “bought”. Yes, it is a bit odd for a verb. I remember my nephew saying “goed”, when just learning to speak: he knew the general rule, and applied it.

There was a pong from the landfill, which is 2km away. You only smell it when the wind is in the right direction, but that is the prevailing wind. There used to be a pong from the chicken factory. I remember the Coupar Angus chicken factory, the smell of guts and death: far better to live the other side of Marsby.

14 thoughts on “Language

    • Before transition, I was walking in Oldham in the evening and I noticed two blokes standing on the other side of the otherwise deserted road. One started shouting, “Oi! Oi!” And I ignored him. Then he shouted, “Oi! White man!” and I thought Oops- so I turned and said “Salaam Aleikum” (Peace be with you). He laughed, and very formally said “Wa-Aleikum O-Salaam”, and I went on my way.


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