Monday, 8 October 2007


I think I probably started life bi-lingual. At any rate, reportedly I used to chatter away in some anglo-arabaic hybrid with Mabruk (the statuesque, turbanned Sudani who looked after me in Khartoum). Sadly nothing of the language has stuck apart from a few orphan phrases - 'men fadlak' (please), 'shukran' (thank you), 'hasan fikra' (better idea), and something remembered as 'cut a carrot', the meaning of which has faded (perhaps, 'a'ta katra' - 'give me lots' ?)

'Give me lots' is possible. The combination of formula milk and a hot climate (it was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on the day I was christened) played havoc with my metabolism, and I went from starveling to piglet and back again with alarming speed. On one occasion a group of Sudanese girl guides peered into my pram and remarked, 'Kabir ahmar tama tim', which meant, 'Big red tomato'. Thanks, girls. Nothing like a good deed.

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