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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Saturday, September 28, 2013


That's Afrikaans, and it means "impolite, rude".  But it's a far sharper word than in English, because on the whole, Afrikaners are very courteous, even when they disagree with you.  To be rude is a much greater solecism than in English.

I very occasionally hear Afrikaans on the train, but over the last week I have heard it twice.  On Tuesday, a group of three mothers, all chatting away together.  They were very nice and surprised to find another semi-Afrikaner on the train.  On Friday, two middle-aged couples.  Now normally I go across and praat die taal  (talk the language) with any Afrikaners I meet.  But these were commenting, loudly in Afrikaans on some of the other travellers.  "Look, here comes the son!"  and then laughing loudly as a very fat and obviously very self-conscious bloke waddled down the aisle.  "Net soos sy ma!" (Just like his mother).

The world is a hard place, full of suffering and loneliness.  There's no need to make it worse by mocking someone.  What does it cost to be kind?  What makes them think that the fatties didn't know they were being laughed at, especially in another language?  How offensive!  How cruel!

The journey was saved by a utterly gorgeous bogan family from Bendigo, up the line a ways.  The train was chock-a-block, because of "The Show" at the Agricultural showgrounds, so whereas I often have an empty seat beside me, this time there were no spare seats.  A mother came in, with three children.  She was trying to squeeze all four of them onto two seats, so I said, why don't you put one of the boys next to me?  To put him at his ease I talked to him.  Then I helped him eat his Hungry Jack's burger and fries, not by eating them with him, but by wiping little fingers and his face, picking up crumbs,  etc. And we talked.  Or rather he did, I I made assenting noises.  He was 5 years old.  In occasional asides, I spoke to the mother.  Had she come down to Melbourne for the Grand Final parade (They were Hawthorn supporters, one of the teams playing in today's Grand Final)?  No, she'd come down to the prison, making an embarrassed face.  Her husband.  I didn't say anything, just tried to show it didn't matter to me.

Then the 9 year old also came to talk to me.  We talked about planes.  By pure luck, just as we were talking, a Singapore Airlines A380 took off and we had a discussion about how big it was and how high the tailplane was and then I talked about the Paris to London TGV.  He was the sort of quiet, nerdy boy who gets bullied at school.  I even got to gurgle with the daughter, an utterly endearing bright-eyed one year old.  A single mother, to all intents and purposes, bringing up her children as best she could.  And making a good job of it.

As I got up to get off the train at my station I said to the woman, "Your children are a credit to you: well-mannered, well-behaved, lovely".  And I ignored the ill-mannered Afrikaners.  I hope they heard my accent.  But perhaps it's too much to expect that the snub signified.

[Pic from, a beaut resource for the air mad]

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