27th Nov – I like pork, I like cheese, maybe I’m a little bit Portuguese.

It is not original to say, “the mind is where everything takes place”, but we always seem to forget that this is so when we most need recall it. Well, some of us do. I was about to add to it, that we project all the powers we lack ourselves onto unknown foes, but as I write it, I realise that it is only true for about half of us.

I used to play cricket with a friend who was consistently good at batting, and one day, when we were chatting about what made him such a formidable player, he said, “You’ve just got to believe that the bowlers are shit.” I was a bowler, and I thought, “We already do that for you,” because, when I stood at the end of my run-up, I didn’t think, “The batsmen are shit.” Instead, I experienced a form of stage fright, which, if I could have articulated it at the time, would have sounded like, “I have no right to be here.”

There’s an old man here who comes into our room to collect dirty plates and things like that, and over recent weeks he has started to show an inclination to stay and strike up a conversation. The other day we allowed him to. He has a kind, but scrawny, poorly-shaved, face, with wisps of beard here and there, and straggly tresses of untended hair, hanging down from a mostly bald head; and to that he adds but a few shards of broken teeth. He is either a poorly-worn seventy-odd year old, or an impressively mobile, eighty-odd year old. He took no time at all to tell us that his real job was a poet, and that he could speak and write his poetry in seven or more languages.

We were then supposed to invite him to recite a poem, but neither of us did. We each seemed to sense that nobody indulged him and that we’d have to put up with the old crone for hours if we gave him the slightest encouragement. Eventually, Keith said, “What languages do you speak,” and he reeled off the usual set of European tongues which always sounds far less impressive than they should when presented as a list. We all think Italian, Spanish and French are a bit samey, don’t we?

Nevertheless, part of me was quietly impressed. I mean, seven languages, poetry, reciting by heart? It was considerably more than I could boast. Then he said it, “Would you like to hear one?”

Keith said, “Have you got any short ones?” and the man replied, “I have the perfect poem written to my love, that I can tell you in eight languages.” Definitely eight now, eh?

And now, because I am a spiteful sort, entirely lacking in compassion, I am going to show you his “poem” and make you read it. Just be glad that you don’t hear eight times in eight similar languages.

I love my love
I have no love but my love
My love she gives me love
As I give love to my love

Err, that’s it. Not so much a poet as a Radio DJ perhaps. And if that’s what seven (eight) languages does for you, I think I’d prefer to be good at just one.

To be PM of the UK you must be retarded

When he finally came to a close, Keith decided to test his language skills, and in a very pleasant voice, he quickly said, “Thank you, listening to that meretricious nonsense was utter torture. If only I had some knitting needles close by, I could have driven them into my ears.” The old boy smiled weakly then left, but when Sweet and Sour brought our food that night, he emptied Keith’s over his head. Like I did that time to Eggo.

“We were a bit arrogant, don’t you think?” I said to Keith when we were sure he’d gone, relieved that a beating was now out of the question. But Keith wouldn’t have it, “No, just honest,” he replied. “He was arrogant. Not us.”

“I’m not sure about that,” I said, but Keith would not have it any other way.

“We – well I, at least, am merely confident.”

… that is dead funny.

“What?” I asked, I knew that I didn’t think of myself that way.

“Arrogance,” he said, “is to assume you have nothing left to learn. It is the resort of idiots.” He looked at me as if there were nothing further to say, but I guess, the puzzled look I returned him, suggested that more explanation was needed.

“Confidence?” he asked, as if it were a well rehearsed conversation – in many ways it was. “Confidence, is knowing that nobody else is as smart as they think they are.”

To be continued …