Thursday 5 November 2009

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Familiar Language

© John Sawyer – November 2009
Cuba Street Mall, Wellington NZ

U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is drifting out of J. J. Murphy & Co. – Irish Pub – well that seems fair enough.

There’s a chalkboard sign on the wall: Breakfast until 12pm - $5: fried egg, hash browns, sausages, tomato, toast. ADD BACON $2 EXTRA. That’s bloody cheap. You’d probably feel obliged to add a pint of Mr Murphy’s Irish Stout to go with it. It’d still be cheaper than muesli and dried fruit at the trendy joint up on the corner and stout for breakfast is the sort of degenerate thing you might do on holidays.

They reckon Wellington has more eating establishments per head of population than New York, but you know about they and what they reckon.

A bloke in a quilted, light blue nylon parka and florescent orange and yellow tracksuit pants is limping along between me and the pub. Is his limp a disability or are his shoes the problem? If his shoes were a house, they’d be condemned, particularly the left one where the toes are poking through the front and the sole and heel are basically detached from the uppers.

He suddenly veers towards the vacant seat next to me: “I think I’ll sut here awhile.” Oh oh, I prepare to be begged at. “Hullo, my name is Jummy” and he thrusts his right hand at me. I’m afraid to say that I look first before I shake. One thumb, three fingers; the little finger missing. I shake hands, avoiding the rather grubby handkerchief wrapped around so that it covers his palm.

“Gidday, I’m Jack.”

Jimmy reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a cigarette packet with two cigarettes left: “Do you want a cugarette, Jeck?”

That’s an unexpected turn up for the books: “Err, no thanks Jimmy. I managed to give up a few years ago.”

The Pogues and “Dirty old Town” are now meandering out of the pub. We listen for a very few moments and watch the other non-shoppers.

“What do you do for a luving, Jeck?"

“Err, well I work with computers and things…”

Jimmy now starts to babble, not just a few words that highlight the regional pronunciation of vowels. He speaks in tongues: “gloxen bendule flox…”; talks gobbledygook: “qsuerty xibwert foswer…”. Is Jimmy talking to me in what he assumes to be some programming language or is he having a go at me about the techno-ese he’s heard computer nerds talking while they eat their lunchtime sandwiches on the seats dotted around the Mall?

Before I can question him, Wendy arrives back and hands me two armloads of shopping bags. She smiles benevolently while she prepares to drag me off to the next retail outlet.

“Arr, goodbye Jimmy. Good to meet you.”

“Nuce to meet you, Jeck.”


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