THE NATIONAL POET OF SLOVENIA IN A LANGUAGE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND presents...
Chicken! Chicken! Something quite
Fetid floating in the night
Kaj imate? Beak or eye?
You've been framed. Fearful diet. Whee!
Here's your vino. Here's the bill.
The smell's down here. We live uphill.
Here's cultured us, there's scruffy them:
We eat our steak, they - MRM.
Beyond the town, not chintz or Aga,
Not Blake or Keats, but smack and lager.
Our trendy idea: more tobacco!
Four a.m., it's off to Rocco.
Our jealousy keeps love apart
Our aim's to stop before you start;
Ladies, you must not have fun -
Keep your panties on and run.
While folks throw up like Britney Spears,
They water us with chicken tears;
The cultured classes thought it meet
For us to inhale chicken feet.
What the Moody's? What the Fitch?
Standards here are poor, not rich.
One billion and a half deposit
Gone to the Catholic Church, who "lost it".
Chicken, chicken, in the night,
This decadent veneer's just right.
Stink night? It's just a case of luck:
What's that odour? What the ?$!??
Literary notes on the poem
with Virgin Mary
This poem is one of a few unasked-for contributions to the annual Days of Poetry and Wine in my adopted home of Ptuj, Slovenia. It first appeared in non-interactive form in the Slovenia Times here.
Because I've bought a place in "his" town with its novel ideas about how to introduce newcomers to their secret language, I got whacked around the head by this guy at the opening night of the poetry festival, after trying out a few phrases. I write this with a throbbing head and fuzzy eye.
Slovenia's oldest town is very nice except for the moribund economic situation, the not-infrequent smell of chicken wastes being rendered - and men and women don't like each other very much.
Also, if you speak English, Ptuj has arranged things so that every time you go out some drunk guy starts shouting at you for not having had the good fortune to have been born speaking Slovenian.
How are these behaviours connected? We are now learning about the subtle chemistry of love and trust, about oxytocin, histocompatibility, and we have known for a while of Catholic iniquities and the stink, corruption and redundancy of Slovenia's theo-oligarchic economic system.
It's time for us to catch up with these hard facts, and take a fresh look at our situation with a news roundup about the linguistically remote Slovenians at home, from the himself-linguistically-isolated English outsider on the inside.
Though I was on Slovenian territory, I wrote "The Chycken" in English.
Right away you can see "piščanec" is a rubbish trochee. Slovene grammar would have messed up all the rhymes and metre, and I wouldn't have been able to make any jokes.
Also, by using English Slovenia can get something out of it for free.
Slovenia has neither shed the command economy nor managed to get the Pope's hand out of its trousers.
Students, cigarettes, alcohol, foreigners' houses and clerical sex abuse are among the items which can be bought more cheaply in Slovenia, while food, medicine, driving, and life-wrecking bureaucrats are all more expensive.
Ptuj is trying to pass itself off as something it is not, with comedic contrasts.
Since www.ptuj.co.uk appeared six years ago chicken factory odour levels and frequencies have improved, though not markedly.
Now clearing their own air was all the Slovenians' own idea. To make your own tourist town less smelly with your own smell is hardly a compromise.
It takes bitter jealousy and sweet sweet wine to make this the "fault" of a single foreign individual's inability at Slovenian. Then you can hit him.
Language: The National Poet's Story
Can a flatfish can describe the sea...or sky? There are some things about Slovenia that its public relations efforts are never going to mention.
Eight years in, being hopeless at the official language of a country you live in is a less-than-ideal situation. But is this the whole story?
Clue 1: Not speaking Slovenian surprises few of those I meet.
Clue 2: It's a stick even polite, reserved people can beat you with. But especially drunk people. And poor people. And people who think themselves deserving of more than they have. And people who wish your goat would die.
And most of all, people who are all of these things.
Clue 3: English speakers married to or divorced from Slovenians seem to know roughly the same or less of Slovene than this underestimated lonesome boy.
Yes, that's right, it's easier to get through a whole marriage and raise children without being hassled over this language - than a night out in Ptuj.
These couples - interracial insults to the Slovene gene puddle - mostly paired up well away from Slovenia.
Here's the routine. Using some educational pretext, first get well out of the reach of claustrophobic morality, prejudice and the village envy-thon, with all its Catholic quicksand, beady-eyed whispered warnings and inevitable condemnations. To get your rocks off without their opinions, you will need to go to another country!
Here, hook up (in English) with a non-Slovenian person. At this point you may forget the linguistic misfortune of your birth. Travel broadens the mind, and none more than the Slovenian one.
Optionally if not optimally, you may return with your captive alien to Slovenia, and defiantly present your fait accompli relationship to your grandmothers and the drunk boys.
Over vampi and šmarnica your new partner, who has vowed to follow you to the ends of the earth, may start to wish you hadn't taken them quite so literally.
Your necessary but temporary escape from the novelty-phobic villagers has had the unfortunate side-effect of trapping a newcomer inside Slovenia's ingrown lingosphere and the reactionary reality from which - as your behaviour has demonstrated - it is inseparable. Strictly, reactionary is the wrong word - you have to have progressed, to want to go back.
A typical Slovenian interracial love story
My girl hightailed it back to England as soon as we'd arrived. I was forced to improvise, and search for a local replacement.
I was a foreign guy looking for a woman in Slovenia. Most turned out to be Slovenian. Etiquette (meaning their fear) required I go and meet them in a different country, where the confines of their jibber-jabber would be undeniable. But I was messing with the routine: everything was the wrong way around.
Am I really into chicks who would rather stab pins in their eyes than suffer the curses of their fellow peasants? Whaddya think? Slovenian ladies are, after all, only doing as they're told, in the name of modesty.
Dressing up in a gold tasselled bikini to sprawl around on a car doesn't really count. In home mode, they are as sensitive about the hegemony of the foreign penis as they are dulled to the requirements of the local ones.
As my search for the love began, the barflies' jaws began their inevitable descent.
Protecting the womenfolk from anything that isn't drunk and watching football was their first priority. Soon I was the only man interested in sex in the village.
My odd priorities - how could this be more important than drinking, and football? - were exposed! Clearly the best defence of the low bar set by the local menfolk was to publicise that sex was actually my motivation for coming to Slovenia. But that wasn't the plan at all, or I'd have left the other one behind.
My next problem in Slovenia was dancing. It's just about ok for the trendier chaps to shuffle around a bit in a drunken stupor, lamely punching the air to the antiseptic throb of a Europharmaceutically assisted drum machine.
The older girls may go gogo on their own. And me. Try to ignore the yokel stares from over by the bar, as watchful eyes surveil for clues on foreign mating behaviour. If things are going too well their owners may cut in - not to dance, but to distract with The Questions, to quieten your flailing arms with the compulsory drink, or both.
My superior on this terpsichorean frontier - who has passed exams in dance and everything - even had his unconventional gyrations reported to the bouncers!
Samozavestni - the literal translation of "self-conscious" in Slovenian - means a good thing. In some ancestors' benighted century "self-conscious" became "self-aware"...then became "self-limiting". One thing of which Slovenia cannot be accused is attention-seeking.
To deal with this dancing threat - that self-conscious football drunks might not be a girl's only option - my Slovenian-language reputation was redesigned by the Catholic elders and I became the only gay woman-chaser in the village.
Slovenians are a creative and imaginative lot whose escape route from the Balkan nightmare via a kind of blithe mimicry of western counterculture does not prevent them believing most of what their grandparents always believed.
But dancing in the farming hinterlands? This embarrassing protrusion of unauthorised and difficult to limit foreign movement was dismissed as British eccentricity. Of course it is easy to class a solitary bopper as an attention-seeker, when your standard dancing model is either pole-dancing, or somewhere to the right of Iran.
One night offered a glimpse into this country's joyless, accountant's animus. As I set one highly disinfected Catholic dancefloor alight, a man's unflinching stare was explained to me thus: "He's wondering why you're doing this for nothing," a sympathiser explained.
There is dancing now, in the town where music itself was once prohibited. These adventurers must ignore the majority's Yugo-albatross burden upon their necks. They avoid eye contact, perhaps worried they'll be reported to the authorities, antipsychotics prescribed, and lead weights sewn into to their clothing.
On age matches, Ptuj proved no less creative in its commentary on the alien's love situation. Again there is really no model, as by my age most Slovenians seem to have succumbed to brewer's droop.
In Slovenia your adulthood is often long delayed by paperwork, as you attempt to improve your job prospects by impressing the people whose jobs you would be taking. The key to most success is in its first syllable.
So any pre-menopausal women in whom we aliens might show an interest count as under-age schoolgirls. The wise winos got busy again, and word went out about the only gay heterosexual pedophile in the village.
With the investigation now thoroughly under way, determined interrogation by the menfolk revealed my worrying reluctance to go along with their casual, ignorant disparagement of the many inferior races. Immediately, I became the only gay, heterosexual, pedophile, nigger-lover in the village.
I began to suspect religion might have a role to play in all of this. When shocked villagers learned of my atheism I became the only gay, heterosexual, pedophile, nigger-loving Devil-worshipper in the village.
When the alcohol-tobacco-cocaine-sport lobby found themselves (I thank Professor Nutt among others) on a different side in the war on drugs I became the only gay, heterosexual, pedophile, nigger-loving, Devil-worshipping heroin junkie in the village.
BUT! A troubling fact persisted. Even with the foreigners sexually and economically quarantined, concerned defenders of the culture of drinking/smells/men and women not liking each other very much had not become rich enough themselves to barf, cough, and snort to sport all day long.
They were still living with their folks. And I wasn't. Perhaps lawyers would be needed. Something wasn't fair.
It was proved there was no positive (for them) motivation for my presence at all. I was just an unwelcome reminder that they've been born in a square country with a rather unpopular language.
So along the way I became the only gay, heterosexual, pedophile, nigger-loving, Devil-worshipping, heroin junkie foreign spy in the village.
To crown it all, I'm not even a proper Englishman, they complained, referencing my lack of interest in watching men running around in shorts. Behold my inadequacy. They, of all people, should have realised I am too busy with my womanising gay pedo Satanic junkie secret agent work.
Finally an incontrovertible fact wobbled into focus. Here, at last, was a real-life foreign weakness! Here was someone - who thanks to his excessive interestingness had somehow been deprived of the type of company usually responsible for 99% of all conversation - who couldn't speak. Talking to itself was an achievement of which Slovenia could be justly proud, while speaking Slovene was something at which this foreigner really did suck.
Like a shoal of herrings, the town reacted as one. They weren't allowed to dance, or get laid, or indeed have any kind of non-alcoholic fun, under threat, it seems, of social banishment. They couldn't find any privacy away from their own microscopically detailed investigation of themselves - nor dare to be more or less than the average of themselves.
But ah - the language - we've got you there. Pouncing like cats on their discovery of a weakness brought brotherhood and strength, some hope of a unified resistance to this invasion of Slovenia by my flexible, declension-less, unisex tongue.
Taunting "the English" for his linguistic, erm, limitation became the European Capital of Chicken's fourth favourite pastime after drinking, smoking and football...and the first new one since the demise of Mithraism.
And so back to my whacking. Clue 4: No-one seems to care about my language abilities more than tonight's zealous lingo-evangelist assailant.
He keeps on and on being a real bummer about it and looks increasingly dangerous. If anything happens to me, it'll be them.
But who knows, not too much should change. Perhaps international poetry gatherings and interracial punch-ups can find a space to work together.
How do we know these local traditions are not mainly racist, or mainly linguistic?
Well, firstly because Slovenian politics operates on exactly the same mudslinging, kindergarten level. Secondly the locals who can't afford to go to another country to pull have to go through the same shit in their own search for lurve, in a performance which, like the politicians', basically involves everyone trying to mess things up for everyone else. Imagine a kind of desperate, last-woman-standing, Alomo kind of a situation.
I haven't visited all the ideologically-damaged backwaters, so I can't compare. But someone gave someone the child until he was seven, and that someone gave Slovenia the man (and woman). When not embezzling, Slovenians are good boys and girls, dreaming of acceptance by any organisation the Church of Creepy Crap has disguised itself as - and in need of guidance.
Alcohol, they say in Ptuj, is even in the air. If mood and empathy can result simply from airborne molecules - or their absence - a blank sheet would be a good starting point for an examination of a "Slovenian psyche/mentality".
Like many other so-called national identities, I believe Slovenian-ness to be much less genetically predisposed, and much more a response to environmental stimuli, not least language sounds acquired as early as the 16th week of pregnancy, than is popularly supposed.
However such an empirically-based point of view is unlikely to be promoted by politicians or considered by the commentator during bar-room screenings of the UEFA cup, or by the ECB, or by nations preparing for war.
And the determined Slovenian anglophobe cares not for awkward obstetric facts, as to why I have no chance with their rrrrrr noise.
Language is not really his agenda. Were I to excel at Slovenian I would be stealing "his" language and open, I'm sure, to many other criticisms.
As the child of bigots myself I'm fully aware of how they always try to rationalise their phobias. Clue 5.
Back to the poetry and whine. My house is too big, he's sure. Why don't I just sell the house for less than I paid - for EUR 20000 maybe - and get out of Slovenia, he suggests. We're still on the language issue, remember. Clue 6.
He starts muttering how "his" Slovenian system can - abracadabra! - deliver "his" too-big house "back" to him from foreign hands.
Whereupon he probably expects to sit in it watching those better foreign TV programmes dubbed into his village argot, while bundles of foreign money flow pilotlessly inwards.
Not much to ask. This, then, is Tito's legacy?
Rehypothecation Slovenian-style: sold, but we still own it
Clue 7: Virtually no-one in Ptuj expects to pay the one person who is really best at English for any kind of work. But every man-jack-and-jill of them expects to use him to get their English right for free, whenever they feel like it.
Clue 8: But they'd expect me to pay EUR 15 for a painfully thin 45 minute Slovenian class! The teacher would act like it was pointless and useless.
Indeed. It would be like demolishing a motorway toll gate, a profitable obstacle. With a toothpick.
Were this hypothetical language institution's extraordinary activities discovered, it could easily experience a commercially disastrous small-town Amish-style shunning from our patriotic friend and his ilk.
Anyway, this poem is not stolen from a Slovenian one.
Blake fans will recognise "The Tyger" whose trochaic tetrameter catalectic verses (about a blast furnace/foundry) are described in Wackopedia as the most anthologized poem in English.
My "Chycken" addresses the schism betwixt God and industrial revulsion.
My head really hurts, all over. There were, of course, long term consequences of being hit around the head for not speaking Slovenian.
Like Spiderman with his radioactive shit, a strange transformation occurred.
In that very instant The National Poet Of Slovenia In A Language People Understand was born.
...is Slovene for "whatcha got?"
Mechanically recovered meat (white slime)
Slovenia smokes on
. . . And on
. . . And on
Rocco's is the quietest, least problematic late-night establishment in town. After some poetry and wine why not nip round the corner for a lapdance? Or vice versa...
Cardinal sins 1: Uran's willy
Cardinal sins 2: Pope goes weasel
Cardinal sins 3: Debt, forgiveness, RKC, NLB, other Slovenian bankrottery
End of the stinky chicks?
The Proceedings of the Slovenian Patriagarchical Society
Fiddling while the room burns
The Loan Ranger - TEŠ 6
Hanky banky 19: Serfs up!
Pennies from the block
Prices: State stupormarket Mercator vs.Tesco
Slovenian President second to nun
Low price of sex abuse in Slovenia
How to get the foreigner's house
Dirty Dutch electro-house
Slovenia's innovative roll
Hanky banky 1
That's the spirit
Turbo folk charged
Slovenia dangles its meat
All at sea
Hanky banky 8: Letter to Santa
NLB 4/Hanky banky 10/Cardinal sins 5: The Puppetmasters
Hanky banky 11: Capital ideas
NLB 5: The Undead
Hanky banky 15: Pants aweigh!
Hanky banky 16: Historical revisionism about that stuff two months ago
Hanky banky 17: Norost in space
Unimplode: The price of progress
Treasury bond: Shaken not stirred
Gangster paradises compared
The poet's unfinished lament
Pope Stars - The Rivals
Train of thought
Hanky banky 20: Share the booty
Get debt from the waste down
NLB 9 / Hanky banky 21: Brain stain
Ducks in a rose
Slovenia raising food and energy prices to hire more bureaucrats
Cheese straws of hope
United we sit
Hanky banky 22: PM mardy at Moody's
Winocrats: The Battle Against Nature
Declaration of Vin Dependence
Poetry and wine
To bee or not to bee
Dogs vs. bees
Leaves vs. nuclear power station vs. You rainy . . . um . . .
Austria flashes her great big wet underside
What-Au? - detailed November 5 2012 wetness coverage
Gimme a shot of red eye: riot joy of winemaking suppliers
Coal Hole 1: sunk cost terror
Coal Hole 3: ee-i-ee-i-bee
From the skies
On your marques...
Coal hole 4: Black market legal work
Slovenia's own nature
Business environment: Hell for leather
Legal environment: High court sludge
divers verses from The National Poet Of Slovenia In A Language People Understand
NLB 1: The bank that likes to stay mess
Hanky banky 2: Ireland shows the way
Hanky banky 3: The wages of fin
NLB 2: Some foreign frozen account holders still refusing to die
NLB 3: Stupormarket shoppers keeping Ljubljanska Bank afloat - just
The bald truth about Slovenian business
Hanky banky 4: Referendum scan scam
Soft, unimpressive election
Every one's a winner
Hanky banky 6/Constitutional consternation 1: Send for Nell Gwyn!
Constitutional consternation 2: What's in a name?
Hanky banky 9: The fat of the land
Clueless on Gaza
Everybody out! 2: Revolt of the pixel pixies
Of hydrogen bondage
Slovenia's intelligentsia to celebrate their independence
Constitutional consternation 3/Hanky banky 13: Slovenian ship of state finds Slovenian public unconstitutional, sinks enemy.
Hanky banky 14: Under the counter
2013: Independence and unity continue
Corruption: the denariocratic solution
NLB 6: Supranationalfragilisticexpedientlyatrocious
NLB 7: Sums from the Ministry of Love
NLB 8: Corporate values
Just horsing around
Hanky banky 18: Fishy statistics
Roll on elections
Equine in wine
NLB 10: LuB Story
Fit for a prince
Head for the Hildas
Coal hole 5: Hilda's hidey hole and the hole truth
Hilda's grave situation
State of moo-teeny
Strange tongues and Slovenia
Lies, Damned Lyes, And State Stearates Scots English
Cardinal sins 4: Illegitimi Non Carborundum Latin
Baa humbug Yorkshire
Out, damned sport! Swedish innuendo
Das slowenisches Reich 1: Was ist losos? German
Das slowenisches Reich 2: World War 1 Part 3 (2012) - arwyddion o ddryswch German, with Welsh note
The strange tongue of Jimmy Savile Glossolalia
Dejeuner sur les verbes French
Hanky banky 5: Battle of the office equipment Latin
Making the Drava into a crisis German
Hanky banky 7: Lingual rhyme Bad English
You can't be Syria's! French
Coal Hole 2: Anthra-site for sore eyes Indonesian
Luckily there is at least one more easterly east European country which makes Slovenia seem western by comparison Hungarian
Publishing control spells disaster Yorkshire into Swahili
The Lincolnsheer Glycolysis Poächer Lincolnshire, with dialect index
Hanky banky 12: The least foreign Swedish
Passing resemblance Latin
Dear Neighbour... Managementspeak + Scots English
Chile, con, carne Chilean slang
The best of oil possible worlds... Azerbaijani
One man banned German
Cardinal sins 6: Pete Peron Ballroom Latin
Stari wars Proportionally-allocated non-perjorative Modern Windisch
Les effluents d'influence French
E pluribum anus Latin
NLB 11: Writedown recipe French
Babel table Diplomatic language
Coal hole 6: Black humour French + bouquet of cross-Channel homophony