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Odd bits of writing. For more thoughts visit www.unusualconnections.co.uk/leadershippresenceandcommunication

WILL YOU HELP ME LEARN DUTCH?

Will you help me learn Dutch?
Because I’m really trying to learn.
I keep counting to ten, saying “Hoi” and “Bedankt”;
I keep asking “how do you say…?” and “what does that mean?”
I say dankjewel; want to say alstublieft but can only say please,
As my tongue twists while I think of what’s coming next.
I walk around with a big smile so that people don’t think I’m impolite when I gesture but don’t speak.
I look at the till to double check I’ve understood the total of my shopping right (at least they use Euros and not Drakmas, can you imagine…?);
I don’t hold eye contact with anyone in the street in case they say something to me I can’t understand:
Will you help me learn Dutch?
So far I know mooi, gracht, boom, Haarlemerplein, slaapen and Doei. I also know all of those words that sound like English and Spanish, so I suppose I’m quite lucky. And I have also learnt a few words that I don’t dare write here.
The Dutch are so language-accommodating,  I suppose I’m just lazy.
And it does seem ironic that if I open my mouth I might end up speaking Double Dutch.

PERSONAL AUDITORY SPACE

The office heater’s broken so I just stepped out for a cup of coffee and a yummy cupcake.
3 people on their own – doing some kind of work – like me! Next to me, a couple (I think they’re a couple) talking about work, possible collaborations (I think they’re artists). Upstairs, a lot of background noise, the kind of sound you would expect on an SFX track labelled “restaurant noise”.

One of the guy starts talking into his phone – sounds “important”, something about a table – he looks like an adrenalin-junkie, spotted him when he came in, thrives on his work.

And then suddenly PING – more like PIIIIIING – from the corner, a woman rings a bell, a chime – a tibetan flat bell. Interesting. I look up after a while (I am not going to admit I am intrigued by such a simple sound) to see if I can understand this contrast of two worlds: the lady and her companion are sitting perfectly still – why? What are they doing? Practising some performance skills? Meditating? And then his pen moves – phew, that’s more “normal”.

Intrigued (but not wanting to get caught staring) I continue with my work – and my cupcake.

And then, another high pitched sound, this time more in sync with its surroundings: cling, cling, cling. I have to look up and there she is, banging her spoon against her cup. She catches my eye, clings her spoon against the cup one last time and in a theatrical gesture she puts cup and spoon down, all the while holding my stare. I smile. What I really want to do is say: Please can you stop that annoying sound, can’t you see there are other people here? But I don’t. I smile. Because I’m scared. She thinks that I am amused by her, that I share her joy of making ping and cling noises. Phew – I’m off the hook, can continue with my work, knowing that now she knows that I am here and not afraid to make myself “heard”.

I really wish I could shut my ears – my eyesight is pretty bad and so, to compensate, I have really good hearing. I’m also very sensitive to music and rhythm; and I was also brought up to keep my noise down for others in the household and the neighbours.

So yes, I feel threatened by sounds that invade my “hearing space” – probably more than bodies that invade my ‘personal space’. Why? I’m not sure – answers on a postcard… or an mp3 file if you must.

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