April 11: sacrificing precision for tone

On the train they said ‘the train has been delayed because of trespassers on the rails, so we are ten minutes late. We apologise etc etc‘. They love apologising now. Then a few minutes later they say once again that the train has been delayed by ten minutes because of trespassers on the tracks’. The they say it again a few minutes later:’Once again the train has been delayed…’ What this does not mean is that the train has been delayed three times by three separate set of trespassers or the same trespassers managing by some remarkable feat to get to three different places on the line three times to delay the train. What they want it to mean is that we are telling you this once again. I wonder what they think the once again contains: world-weariness? Self-awareness? It makes for a cleverer train announcer. If he actually communicated efficiently it would have to be something like: I repeat trespassers have been on the tracks. More formal; more hectoring.

In France they also manage to get my goat with a train announcement when they say that the bar will be open for dix minutes supplementaires when they mean to say dix minutes de plus. Ten minutes more, not ten extra minutes. Here I suppose they want to translate a sense of festivity, as though for this special occasion we are letting you buy another bottle of kronenbourg before we pull into Lyon station. But that would be the shadow of a meaning carrying weight alongside the critical meaning, and both meanings being in more or less direct contradiction of each other.

In both cases it is a case of sacrificing precision for tone. I shouldn’t worry. I do a lot of that myself.


April 11: Watt and my dad or my dad and Martin Creed.

When I sleep in my dad’s house as I did two nights ago I sleep on the floor in the living room downstairs. When I want to go to sleep I have to try and get my dad to go upstairs to bed. He doesn’t go to bed till one or so normally, so that can be difficult. It reminds me of Samuel Beckett’s character Watt from his novel of the same name, who spends much time rearranging limited numbers of items in limited numbers of positions. In a famous scene he does this will pebbles (or are they coins?) into a set of pockets. My dad is like that. I am stretched out in the floor in sleeping position.

Dad:       I’ll switch the lights off

Me:         Right dad.

Dad:       I can’t see to go through now.

Me:         Put the hall light on.

Dad:       I haven’t locked the back door.

Me:        Right dad.

Dad       I’ll have to put the light on again.

Me:        Right dad.

Dad       I need that hall light on again.

Me:       Right dad.

Dad:     I didn’t take my pil.

Me:      Right dad. What’s it for?

Dad      Old people’s things.

Me:       Right dad.

Dad:     I’ll put the hall light on again.

Me:       Right dad.

Dad:     I can switch this light off now.

Me:       Right dad. Remember to switch the hall light off when you go up.

Dad:     Did I bolt the door?

Me:      Don’t know dad.

Dad:     I’ll put that light on.

And so on.

Martin Creed should live with my dad for a few nights. That’d sort him out.