Archive for the ‘True Stories’ Category

The blonde who had more of everything

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

I desperately wanted a swing when I was little. But it was not to be. I was too polite to nag my parents into building me one, which is why I considered kids who had such a contraption on their lawn to be lucky little buggers whose parents truly loved them. Well, scratch that about excess politeness: if you’re the youngest of a rapacious brood nothing short of outright vandalism can get your parents’ attention, simple as that.

I suppose I was lucky in other respects; I was allowed to venture out on my own for hours on end without anybody raising an eyebrow (though I sometimes think my parents hadn’t quite realised just how far away my daily bicycle trips took me). Of course I considered my unrestricted freedom to be perfectly normal and only years later grasped how confined many other childhoods were in comparison to mine. One of my particularly prolonged explorations took me to a place that must have been the suburbs of a small town, miles from my home. And that’s where I saw my little blonde. (more…)

Don’t be surprised if you hear I’m turning tricks for a living

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

I ran into one of my favourite high-school professors the other day and when I told him that I was a translator it knocked his jolly mood right out of him. Cuddling his beer, he wistfully reminisced about the high hopes he used to have for me. He went on to inform me that one of his former students was now working for a celebrity fashion designer and another was god-knows-where but filthy rich.

In an atypical moment of mercy, he offered me a chance to redeem myself and asked if at least I was translating movies. In retrospect, I should have said yes. But, having completely misjudged how the world perceived the merits of my chosen career, I didn’t. When I told him that most of my work involved scientific and technical translation, which meant he wasn’t likely to see my name on TV unless I messed up spectacularly, he aimed an accusatory look at my man and demanded to know if he was the one who killed my spark. (Yes, really.) My guy laughed it off while I was silently beating myself up for not having said I was a company manager; it’s technically true because I’m incorporated but it was too late for that now. I tried to regain some value as a human being in my beloved professor’s eyes by mumbling something about how I had great clients and my work was actually interesting and rewarding but he wasn’t buying it.

Then, with a pained expression he recalled how some even smarter girl he used to teach disappointed him even more bitterly. I learned that the poor thing had unwittingly knocked on his door with a copy of The Watchtower in her hand. You need to know that my professor is a vocal atheist – basically he’s a hate preacher but for atheism – and Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been his second-favourite target of ridicule, right after Mormons. So yeah, I’m not the biggest failure he could think of but I came pretty, pretty close. That look of sadness and disappointment in his eyes haunts me to this day. Okay, our awkward encounter took place only this Thursday but still. I’m struggling hard not to wonder if my friends and family are ashamed of me too.

Well, now that I have been informed what an utter waste of space people think I am, I’ve arrived at two resolutions. First, I’ll start charging more for my services because I desperately need to buy myself a large dose of self-respect. Second, the next time someone asks me what I do for a living I’ll tell them I’m a prostitute. In contrast to us translators, these professionals seem to command some respect, probably because they have the sense to charge for what the rest of us do for free. And I refuse to be seen as a loser again! I am deeply passionate about my real work but as it turns out, some passions are best kept secret.

What happens when my man finds another man in his bed

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

WARNING, GRAPHIC CONTENT: Guy gets Fawked

“Who is this!?” he demanded. “Well what do you think, Guy Fawkes,” I replied.

Man-found-Guy-in-his-bed

 

Not sure why but that’s when things took an ugly turn. The Guy was bundled into the trunk and whisked away to a secretive gathering of Brit expats and other good folks who like to reminisce about the times when the judicial system still had teeth. The Guy was made to sit in the corner and ordered to reflect upon the error of his ways. That didn’t seem to help much as he carried on looking as smug as ever.

Guy-sat-in-the-corner

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Brunhilda and the hand that feeds her

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Just so that we’re clear, I came equipped with the usual set of pre-programmed physiological responses and they’re all here and accounted for; I assure you that I am just as fazed by the sudden sight of anything potentially dangerous as the next person. My fight, flight or freeze reaction is alive and well and easily triggered by creepy crawlies, the fact I am willing to extend my hospitality to an occasional charismatic arthropod notwithstanding. It’s just that I don’t continue panicking after having judged a stimulus mostly harmless and as far as I know, all central-European arachnids including my flatmate Brunhilda the diadem spider are harmless to the point of being helpless against humans, save for their potential to send us running by the sheer power of their presence. I am not fearful of Brunchy but if she catches me by surprise… Well here’s a video of what transpired when her delicate claw-foot made contact with my fingertip as I was attaching a snack to her web:

As demonstrated here, the FFF response of this particular human is accompanied by an alarm call. The volume of the distress signal may range from a loud gasp if the room acoustics are deemed adequate to a blood-curdling screech reserved for open spaces, but invariably there is some degree of vocalisation. (Yes I’m a shrieker and unabashedly proud of it. As luck would have it, one of my neighbours wails like a banshee when startled and hilarity ensues each time we unexpectedly bump into each other in the basement. Since the birth of humanity, it was people like us who had kept their fellow humans safe by instantly alerting them to threats real and imagined. These same individuals also excelled at obliterating the element of surprise from hunting expeditions whenever a scary bug moved into sight, which just might have been the driving force behind humans largely giving up on hunting for their meals and settling down to take up agriculture instead. So yeah, we shriekers have shaped history in ways you can’t begin to imagine.) (more…)

Sunday Report: The weirdest things happening in Slovenia (March 16-22)

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

We seem to have had a minor spike in violent crime, like a son punching his innkeeper mum down the stairs with fatal consequences, we’ve seen a stabbing or two and sadly a young woman died when a guy handling a pistol shot her by mistake. (The last one makes me wonder what kind of upbringing do people have nowadays; one of the first things I remember my father teaching me was, don’t do anything stupid with a gun but if you absolutely cannot resist the temptation make sure the muzzle isn’t pointing toward any living creature.) Such things have the power to shock us natives because we haven’t grown accustomed to blood and gore yet, but the average foreigner would probably consider this a slow week, at least judging from the stories my foreign-born friends have been telling me. For example, the one about the event that spurred two of my English friends into leaving Spain for Slovenia; they expatriated to Spain as apparently all English people do sooner or later. One day they came back to their RV to find a group of suspicious-looking individuals crouching behind it. Halfway through the process of politely encouraging the strange folk to move away from their vehicle, they suddenly had bullets zipping past their ears and punching holes into the RV’s side. The crouching posse responded by springing out their own guns and spraying bullets at the police special forces who were shooting at them from behind the English couple; the latter hit the ground like there was no tomorrow and waited for the shootout to play out, grabbed their passports and hightailed it half way through Europe to make a new home for themselves here. For good or for worse, your chances of finding yourself in the middle of a gun battle between the police and criminals in Slovenia are about the same as being abducted by aliens and crowned as their sovereign, mostly because our criminals feel so perfectly safe here they seldom bother to carry firearms.

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Brunhilda and her Anthropophobia

Friday, November 14th, 2014

I love it when Mother Nature steps forward to solve my problems. Until quite recently, a prominent grievance of mine were germ-taxies (houseflies). I’m locally famous for my knack at capturing them, which I suppose is fine. The thing is I’m keen on recycling and I felt bad for having little choice other than flush perfectly edible insects down the drain as I had no pet I could feed my prey to. That was, until Brunhilda came to my rescue.

The first time I saw her was when my darling lured me over to the bedroom by announcing he had something to show me and directed my gaze to the window above my side of the headboard. I was thrilled to see that while I was out, a newly-arrived friend had fitted it with a pure-silk, certified-organic flytrap that cut right through the airspace so cherished by insects. Brunhilda was sitting at the centre of her creation, looking a bit tense. I stood up on the headboard, inspected her up close, looked at my man and said, “Her butt looks flat, we need to fatten her up.” From then on, each captured fly has been presented to our new pal and she seemed to approve of this arrangement because Brunhilda, also known as Brunchy amongst her flatmates, is a diadem spider. And fatten her up we sure did.

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The old man’s daughter and the son of The Buck

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

It’s official, animals have lost their last remnant of respect for us. We people have changed and shed some of our feistier habits that used to keep them in check. In the old days, people went vegetarian only after they’ve run out of animals to hunt and any beast foolhardy enough to wander into a human settlement was facing two possible outcomes. In the highly improbable case it was judged too ugly to eat, the creature was greeted with a hailstorm of sticks and stones and sent from whence it came, its self-esteem curbed somewhat. Given that people weren’t such fussy eaters in days of yore, it was massively more likely the intruder was interpreted as a surprise food delivery and treated accordingly. After the humans were done picking its bones clean and rhythmically banging them together thanking the God of Foolishness for the feast, they tanned its hide and made it into warm slippers and a new handbag for the village First Lady, and if the creature had antlers or fangs of any consequence, they were repurposed as spear tips to welcome the next rambler of its kind with added efficiency.

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The old man and the deer

Monday, March 24th, 2014

My grandfather always knew right from wrong. It seemed that his inborn sense of justice was so strong it rubbed off on even the most hardened crooks and made them realise the error of their ways. What was especially amazing about it was that this effect wasn’t limited to people; well at least we, his family, are at a loss of how else to explain how gramps succeeded in making a deer repay what it had stolen, and quite dramatically at that. There’s a well-travelled saying of ‘Treat others like you want to be treated’, also known as the Golden Rule (which happens to be the reason I’m hoping that the few masochists I’m bound to run into sooner or later are as little ethically-enlightened as possible). There’s a substantial volume of theoretical substantiation of why the reciprocal approach works but I’m probably not the only one who’s felt that it would be nice to have some actual proof too from time to time. And sure enough, my grandfather stepped up and provided the factual corroboration I had hoped for.

Inside, grandpa was a gentle soul but it didn’t stop him from being as tough as a coffin nail. Born a son of humble charcoal makers, his childhood was rife with hardship and he used to say that his family was so poor they couldn’t afford to feel sorry for themselves. He grew up to become a steel worker long before occupational safety was a thing but not before he was taken prisoner during WW2 and made it back on foot, so suffice it to say his adult life wasn’t much gentler to him than his youth. Not that it held him back much; against all odds and despite all the rust he had eaten at the steel plant and the frostbite he had to remind him of the horrors endured in the POW camp, he lived to a ripe old age – way too old for his liking – and he regularly complained about having to wait so long to join my grandmother. Reckoning you can’t know for sure if there’s an afterlife until you’ve found out by yourself, he worried that there was one and, knowing his wife, he feared she was up to who knows what.

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The slow-trotting tom a.k.a. One cat to rule them all

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Okay, so maybe I’ve been guilty of not taking people too seriously when I heard them talking about how their cat was the coolest one ever. We might as well set this straight once and for all: your cat may be cute, adorably silly, feisty or whatever but, with all due respect, it is NOT the coolest cat ever. This distinction is reserved for Bon, a majestic tom that had once reigned over our neighbourhood. He was the rudest, toughest, meanest and the most inconsiderate cat imaginable with a commanding presence and some serious swag to boot. He didn’t take crap from anyone, didn’t care what anybody thought and never ran from an adversary. Well actually he never ran at all but merely accelerated to a leisurely trot if he deemed it appropriate, and if that’s not a super cool cat then show me one that is.

We came under Bon’s rule when my father, oblivious to what he was getting us all into, accepted a weighty pet carrier from a frail old recluse who claimed she was getting too old to continue taking care of her cat for much longer. In retrospect, she most likely feared for her dear life and thought it would be best to unload her rowdy beast on a family of able-bodied individuals. My mother and I had no knowledge of dad’s noble dealings and we arrived home to find a puzzling note on the boiler room door, a blood-stained piece of paper with the words “DON’T OPEN SIAMESE INSIDE!’ scribbled on it. Intrigued, we pried the door open and were promptly greeted by, well, not so much a growl than a proper roar. Clueless as to what but a royally-indignant lion could produce a sound like that, we deemed a hasty retreat a fitting response. An emergency congregation later we embarked upon investigating the source of the petrifying noise and cautiously peeked under the central heating unit to be met by an icy glare from a pair of piercingly-blue eyes. Incensed at our failure to keep a respectful distance, the owner of the frosty peepers hissed and spat at us, which prompted my mum and me to decide that her sillier half should be committed to a special institution for whatever it was that he had brought to our house this time.

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The breakdancing dog

Monday, November 4th, 2013

It’s a tough contest but if I had to say which animal made me laugh the hardest, the honour would go to a dog I had when I was little, Fia the Doberman pinscher. It used to be quite common in Slovenia for parents to let their small children keep big animals. I suppose they hoped such a responsibility would instil some wisdom in either the kids or the pets, not to mention the added benefit of having would-be child molesters reconsider their life choices after losing a limb to a protective pet.

(Admittedly, keeping a dog wasn’t always the complicated affair it’s cranked up to be nowadays, as pooches used to have a set of clearly-defined duties – to chaperone the children, to protect the house, to abstain from mauling people without due cause and to refrain from passing gas indoors – which gave them a sense of purpose, and effectively prevented the likes of Cesar Milan from making a career trying to talk some sense into people who don’t know what a dog is for and what to do with it.)

In the rural areas where parents continue to expect their children to be smart enough to make it in the world without grown-ups constantly shielding them from all potential sources of harm, you can still see tots leading huge dogs, horses, cattle and whatnot, and when they’re not doing that they’re likely driving a tractor. From what I gather from my recent explorations of the Slovenian countryside, the age of eight is still considered ideal for country children to start operating heavy machinery. Anyway, my Fia was super clever about many things, a keen student of human nature and an astute exploiter of its soft spots, but like so many animals she tended to come up short when met with certain pitfalls of physics. (more…)