Ag in Africa

11 November, 2006

Luckily misunderstood lifts

Filed under: johannesburg — Ag @ 6:00 pm

‘Lifts’ is one of my favourite words cos it means so many different things and because it’s difficult to say properly. I always end up pronouncing it ‘liffs’ which doesn’t matter too much in Bristol, but I have to pronounce things clearly here. I think I end up sounding very posh and slightly patronising.

I start with a standard-speed ‘lifts’. Heads shake, so I move down to “lif-t-s”. Eyebrows rise, so I go the whole hog: “L-I-F-T-S, I SAID L-I-F-T-S.” I am, I admit, tempted to add, ‘I AM SPEAKING ENGLISH, YOU KNOW. AND NOT JUST ANY OLD ENGLISH. I’M SPEAKING REAL-QUEENS-BLEEDIN-ENGLISH, FFS.’ Maybe it’s the latter unspoken bit that lends the original a patronising edge.

Anyway, since I’ve been here I’ve given a couple of liffs to strangers. The first was a young, black woman who knocked on my car window when I was sat at a traffic light. She was a bit lost and a bit scared cos we were on a dodgy road, so I drove her to where she wanted to be. In Bristol I often drive past bus stops and would like to stop and give whoever is waiting a lift into town, saving them the outrageously high bus fare and the outrageously long wait. But I don’t stop cos I think they’ll think I’m a nutter. They’ll give me that, ‘You’re a nutter. I’d rather die / eat my children / shag Nicholas Soames MP (I’m feeling queasy; dictionary definition: “nauseating offal”. Hah!) / live in Virginia Water / admit-to-having-a-soft-spot-for-tony-blair, than get in that car with you, you freak! So I don’t stop. Which is why I was dead chuffed when someone actually knocked on my window and wanted a lift.

Then today I drove round the corner to get onto Bayers Naude which is a big road near my house. (How do you think that’s pronounced? I started off with Bayers Nord, like the french ‘nord’, then went onto Bayers Nor-dee, before honing it to Bayers Nor-dee-uh. I mean, what sort of weird pronunciation is that? NOR-DEE-UH, I AM SPEAKING AFRIKAANS, YOU KNOW.) As I pulled up to the corner of Bayers Nordeeuh, there was a woman at the corner who I thought wanted to cross the road, so I stopped and waved (not just any wave, the queen’s bleedin’ wave) to indicate to her that she could cross the road and I wouldn’t mow her down. So she smiles at me, trots over to my car, opens the passenger door, gets in and says, ‘I’m going into town’. And off we go! I love it! I’m hoping to rack up a least 50 or so misunderstood liffs during my tenure.

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