Thursday, 21 June 2012

Eavesdropping for beginners

I have a stupendous commercial idea - a series of language courses that would cover the deepest needs of anyone visiting a strange country (and most countries are strange). French for Eavesdroppers, Basic Eavesdropping in Italian, Listening In On the Next Table in Spanish, and so on.
One of the things I miss about pubs, now that I hardly ever go into them, is the enjoyment of listening to Irish people bawling their most intimate secrets to their neighbours over the loud chatter. Mind you, as one gets older this is more difficult: a request to science - would you ever design a cochlear implant with a directional microphone?
On Friday, in a pub in a Liffeyside street, some stáitseirbhísigh - couldn't work out what Department, but you'd know by them - were questioning their colleague. "She was teeny!" he said. I was earwigging like mad. Love interest, I thought, or new puppy. But then he made all clear: "But the second she spoke you could hear a pin drop." He must have been among those present when Aung San Suu Kyi visited Ireland. To my annoyance, a flood of fellow civil servants came in and I couldn't hear the rest of it over the racket.
But next to me were two men discussing their cases - social workers it seemed. I conscientiously closed my ears. Not so, though, when one started talking about his love life - this is, obviously, something that the conscientious eavesdropper considers well within her moral ambit.
"My friends all tell me I always fall in love with crazy girls," the man next to me confided. I nearly ricked my neck stopping myself from turning around to get a look at him.
"Do they so?" his friend said. "Do they?" He seemed to be in the position of wise old adviser. Unfortunately, I hadn't got a good look at him either when the two of them sat down, and now I couldn't.
"She bought me this yesterday," Crazy Girls said. He laid a spectacularly ugly watch on the table.
The other man turned it over. "Inscribed!"
"One hundred and twenty euros! And that's before she paid to have it inscribed!"
"Your name and everything."
"She's spent €180 on me in the last three days."
Then my own friend arrived and we solved the problems of the country for the next ten minutes. (Expel Germany from the euro, the mark would find a proper level, as would the euro, and then stiff the banks; they've had enough by now. Simples.)
At that stage Crazy Girls and his adviser got up to go, and like a flash my eyes swivelled over and gobbled them up. The adviser was a grey-haired man of sober mien. Crazy Girls, to my disappointment, was no prize. A nice enough looking youngster, but you wouldn't want to be spending all your money on him. Still, maybe he had hidden talents.
Anyway, I was telling my pal about the two of them afterwards, and she said she'd nearly died of frustration on a recent visit to Italy, because she was in a train carriage where everyone was talking about sex and politics and she could only understand one word in ten. It wouldn't have been so bad, she said, if she could understand nothing at all.
So, Basic Italian for Eavesdroppers. The vocabulary would have to include "married man", "sister-in-law", "love", "spent a fortune", "politician", of course "bunga-bunga", "brown envelope" - and so on. I give it freely to the company that wants to make a fortune.

 Lucille Redmond's ebook, Love, gripping dark and funny stories of love and revolution, is available on Amazon and iTunes

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