Friday, 20 November 2009

The Scraper's Diary, Friday, March 28th, 1947

On the Bank of the River Aller

A pleasant, peaceful spot, the river swift-flowing-by, a slight icing of bubbles skating downstream, a protective huddle of old, multi-coloured houses across the river, to my left, screened behind a road of countryside trees, that somehow are a parade, and make the scene German. The sun has temporarily resigned to the rain; bulbous clouds, which, flowing effortlessly beyond me, show no sign of their inherent boredom. The grass ahead is rarely green and trodden to the grey earth's humility; away, by the turn of the river, two bare trees stand guard over a deserted cottage, and beyond, the fringes of a forest hide the horizon behind their skirts.

When I sat here, a small boy, muddy clogs in hand, came and sat nearby, and watched me with a grave intent. Three of his playmates have now joined him and they are chattering their supremely important matters in their incomprehensible tongue and lying on their bellies, watching a backwater's sloth.

Two disdainful chickens are beachcombing closer and closer to me; the children are paddling in the shallows.

I must get up and turn to the Barley bridge with its damaged stonework and I must go up to the old philosophical track to the road, and travel. I must move on again.


We saw some rather nice handbags in a shop window, and so we went inside, saw two more on a shelf and started negotiations. I started conventionally;

"Do you speak English?"



Stumped, we thought a minute, while the assistant leaned on the counter, rather embarrassed. I pointed to the handbags and looked 'query'. She handed me one. We inspected it and approved.

"How much ?" I said.

"?", she said.

"How much ?" I said, "Combien ?" "Marks?"

"Ah," she said, "Zwanzig Mark".

"Twenty ?", I said.


We went into a huddle then.

"Nein Deutschgeld", I said. "You take cigarettes?"

"Zwanzig Mark", she said. " Und zwei kilos paper".

"Nix paper", I said, "cigarettes?"

We went on at this for ten minutes, neither of us understanding much of the other's talk and giggling wholesale. We gathered that one gave twenty marks and two kilos paper for a bag. She gathered that we had enough marks, no paper, and a few cigarettes. She also gathered that we were a bit daft.

Eventually we bribed her with soap and bought a bag each for twenty marks and twenty cigarettes each.

We retired to a pub and bought some foul German beer that tasted like acorns and coca-cola. Armed with a glass of this, I went into an alcove and asked a German if he felt any inclination to purchase some cigarettes. He didn't seem too keen, in broken English, but condescended to give me a low price for seventy.

Next, we went to another shop and bought some nice brass ashtrays. I asked the lady if she had any rings. She said something most Aryan, and "and an actress said 'after Easter' ".

I realized that she'd understood all my linguistic attempts at their true banality, and beat a hasty retreat.

footnote: the Scraper never did work out what he had been told in either of the two shops
but did his heroic best to repeat the words as he heard them in his diary.


  1. love image of beachcombing chickens friko!!

  2. The Scraper is quite poetic in his descriptions. I enjoy going back in time with him.

  3. Hi Friko~ On reading the above, I recalled how you've expressed lately how much you love poetry. This is indeed poetry.
    It seemed odd to me that the sales people were a bit haughty when they were the ones who most needed the transactions. I guess they were playing a game?
    These diary entries are so genuine, they give one the chills! xxox

  4. ... watching a backwater's sloth ... that's a NICE phrase.

  5. there's such wealth of knowing in your writing friko. the seeing inside and outside the people who populate your writing is breathtaking. i especially love the line "slight icing of bubbles skating downstream." beautiful friko. steven

  6. I love what you do with language. You have a perspective on it that must be influenced by your knowledge of other languages - and you're not tied down to the conventional usage of a native speaker.

  7. Friko

    Ahh, another welcome extract from The Scraper's diary. Brilliant.

  8. I enjoy seeing the countryside through the Scraper's eyes.
    I found myself saying the shopkeepers' words quickly, with different inflection each time, trying to see what I could make of them - sort of like looking at one of those jumbled pictures until one's eyes glaze over and the hidden image becomes visible.

  9. A parade of trees...yes, indeed they can be seen quiet a lot. About 3,000 miles far from them, it is of much help and joy to read this diary, hearing leaves moving in the wind.
    A wonderful Sunday for you.

  10. her at home - fun image, that one

    Darlene - thanks

    Margaret - they are more or less contemporary and unchanged

    Fran Hill -- thanks for noticing

    Steven - thank you for that

    Deborah - thanks for the compliment

    Martin H - there's still more to come

    Pondside - I haven't been able to work it out myself

    robert - thank you robert and a wonderful week for you.


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