Sunday, 30 September 2012

Our American Cousins

            ‘Alfred, you got a problem.’
            I snivelled for all the village and the valley to hear. ‘Since when, O Light of my Life,’ I managed to ask the fair Ivana through my sobs and in my most plaintive wail, ‘do you no longer call me your Dedushka??’
            ‘Oh, cut the crap! I stopped doing that ages ago. After that sick piece you published on the blog. The one you cut all my remarks out of.’
            ‘You don’t mean my brilliant, comic, modest, if horridly misguided, dialogue dubbed “Triumph of Brevity” of February 26 last, do you?’
            ‘Yeah, that piece of garbage. Halfway through reading it I decided you no longer deserved the hallowed name of Dedushka. Anyway,’ here she shrugged in such a contemptuous manner that you couldn’t help thinking of Atlas dropping the globe in disgust, ‘you’re not even a real one. You’re only our adoptive grandfather. Time to bloody well grow up and get a life…’
             ‘Ow, how harsh you are, my dear! What is wrong with being adopted? Just look at your own dear little brother. What a scrawny kid he was when we picked him up in old Addis. And what a fine figure he cuts now! Did you ever see the snapshots I took at the time? Here… I just happen to have one lying about. Look at this!’

            ‘What of it?’
            ‘And now look at the sturdy well-fed young man with the ball at his feet and the wisdom of the ages in his head! Ah, soon he will go out and conquer his kingdom! The world will be his handkerchief, as the good old Spaniards say!’

            ‘The little brat is likely to blow his nose in it before he realizes it’s the planet he’s wrapping in his snot… ANYWAY! Don’t change the freaking subject as you always do. Just listen to what I have to say!’
            It was obvious that I had won the joust, dear reader. But it was equally obvious that the fair Ivana would run out on me if I did not limit my razor-sharp eloquence a wee little bit. And then I’d never know what awful problem I unwittingly had.
            ‘Alright,’ I told her. ‘Let us start again.’
            She sighed. Then she spoke: ‘Alfred, you got a problem.’
         ‘Yes!’ I answered. ‘My dear godchildren are growing up much faster than they should and are hacking a generation gap out of my avuncular benevolence. ‘T will be but a staircase leading down into hell. But what do they know? How can they realize that a refusal to call your dear Dedushka Dedush—’
            ‘Have you looked at your stats lately?’ she interrupted with remarkable and unsuspected self-control.
            ‘My stats? You mean my blood pressure and my pulse? I assure you they’re fine, dear. In fact, the doctor tells me I have the heart of an ox and the wit of a rattus rattus…’
            ‘And here I always thought it was the other way around,’ she quipped. ‘No, I mean the blog stats. The numbers of who visits your precious posts, and where from, and how often, and what they look at precisely.’
            ‘Aaah! Those “stats”. Now I remember! No dear: I have not. Words are the clay in which I sculpt my genius. Numbers are for grocers and bookkeepers.’
            ‘Right. So you’re cruising in the dark, on towards the lethal cliffs. You haven’t got a clue, do you?’
            ‘A clue of what, dear?’
            ‘Of who reads you…’
        ‘Civilised people of taste and sophistication, of course. And – I hope - an occasional paranoid Brussels bureaucrat, who secretly wishes to learn when the guillotine will be set up on the Great Market and whether he himself qualifies for Sardine Treatment.’
            ‘Beg pardon?’
            ‘Yanks…!’ Hands in the air, eyebrows raised into McDonalds arches, she pronounced the word as if it spoke for itself. ‘You know: the Anglophone folk on the other hemisphere? The ones separated from us by an ocean and the same language? A.k.a. Americans?’
            ‘Aaah. Those Yanks. The good old rebels of 1776! Our cousins from across the sea! Now I understand you. What about them?’
            ‘They’re your biggest fans.’
            ‘They are?’
            ‘With a vengeance. Over a third of your readers come from the States. Usually in the middle of the night. But I think that’s because of the time difference. Not because they’re night owls or vampires.’
            ‘I agree. I have garlic sauce on the blog. And owls don’t dare make an appearance, ever since I took the Famous Scouse to task over walking around Pontevedra with plastic owls on his shoulder.’
            The fair Ivana sighed in a most weary manner. ‘Please don’t change the subject for once? Let’s stick to the matter in hand?’
            ‘Yes dear.’
            ‘Americans make up the bigger part of your readership…’
            ‘I am sure ‘t is so if you rose-red lips say it…’
            ‘And yet…’
           ‘And yet you keep ranting on and on and on about the European Union and the toxic Euro and how the abominable Troika plunges one proud European nation after another into shameful penury…’
            ‘Mea maxima culpa. So I do.’
            ‘But what do Americans care? Bloody yanks can barely find Europe on a map. Most of them think Dutch boys stick the toes of their wooden shoes into dikes to stop the flow, and that Euro-Disney is the capital of France. They couldn’t care less about all that Brussels baloney and the murky future of the EU...’
            ‘Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure of that,’ I told her, taking a deep breath before embarking upon my riposte. ‘As a matter of fact, dear: I think Americans are having the time of their lives reading that stuff. They must be highly amused. You see: until recently, Americans regarded Europe as an arty, sophisticated, yes even sage continent. It might be a little worm-eaten and eroded at the edges here and there, but it was the depository of venerable wisdom with very deep roots and many mighty tree-rings to give proof of its survival skills. Yet look at us now! We’re repeating their history more than 200 years later! No taxation without representation, and all that sort of thing. Down with unelected despots that lord it over us from some distant capital. Aux armes, citoyens and let’s toss some tea into the harbour before we choke on it! I think any red-blooded American finds that a most amusing spectacle to behold.’
            ‘So what you’re trying to tell me is that you’re only trying to be funny? Fun through fury? God, that stinks!’
            ‘No dear. What I’m saying is that there’s a little bit for everybody on the blog. Americans may laugh at the ludicrous spectacle of Europe disembowelling itself. For their part, Europeans may wince and wail at the tragic prospect of being americanized by the lamebrained  leadership who pretend to have their interest at heart. Those who do not like politics – like good old Jerry - may wallow in the Mayonnaise posts or my humble culinary tips. And yes, even Belgian bigwigs with the charisma of a wet rag may find out here on Metis Meets Mittington how far the plans for the Groote Markt guillotine have advanced, and whether yes or no they should get their private jet ready to escape to… - well, I guess: to America! Where else would they go? Have not The States always welcomed the likes of Trotski and Talleyrand, of Werner von Braun and Stalin’s daughter, and every other somewhat suspect political figure? Nay: America is the place to be for our future fallen presidents! Unless they prefer Japan, of course; where they are surely highly admired for their Flemish haikus.’
            ‘If I say I find you sometimes a little hard to follow, would you be quite annoyed, Dedushka?’
            ‘No dear. As long as you call me Dedushka, all your many sins are forgiven!’

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