Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Relaxing Cup Of Café Con Leche

We should have expected the worse, let's be honest. All those residents of Madrid sitting around on bar terraces doing very little while some Andalusians were giving it large with some flamenco dancing and camera crews were milling about shooting footage to come up with a God-awful Olympics bid promo video. It wasn't the flamenco so much, though that, by tradition and origin, has nothing to do with Madrid, it was those lay-abouts on the terraces. What were they doing? Drinking relaxing cups of café con leche. This is why we should have expected the worse. In the end, however, it turned out to be even worse.

Ana Botella is the lady mayor of Madrid. Her surname means bottle. Her message to the ranks of the International Olympic Committee, their relatives, their friends, their mistresses and their, erm, contacts was one that should have remained firmly in the bottle. No one should have removed the stopper and let what was inside come out. Someone did, though.

The "relaxing cup of café con leche" has become an internet favourite. Señora Botella bottled it. She gave it a go but she should have kept it bottled. All of it. In English. Especially the "relaxing cup of café con leche". Some communications "expert", however, had the bright idea to train Ana in delivering the most important speech she would ever make and ensure that she sounded like a hyper-gushing Moldovan TV presenter enthusing about how amazing the Eurovision Song Contest was and whipping herself into a frenzy to announce that Romania had been awarded twelve points. "Oh." "Ah." "A relaxing cup of café con leche." "Oh." "Ah."

The café con leche should have nothing to do with the merits or otherwise of Madrid's bid. It shouldn't have even been mentioned of course, but it was. It still shouldn't have mattered, however, and much though apportioning blame for the bid debacle has fallen on Ana's hamming-up of English pronunciation and intonation, the blame is perfectly ludicrous. Madrid had lost the bid the moment they made that damn video.

Experts other than the communications expert, who can anticipate that his invoice (plus IVA) will now be filed in the bin, have dissected the English and body language performances of others who were hauled up in front of the IOC's invited guests and general freeloaders and made to demonstrate how well or not they had learned their presentation skills. Prince Felipe. What a star. Good English. Good assertive hand gestures, good eye contact (not that he was looking at anyone in particular), confident and amiable expression. Like the best man at a wedding who has the superior gags and remembers everyone's names and who should be allowed to do the bride's father's speech rather than letting the old man ramble on, forget everyone's name and then throw up, Felipe should have flown presentationally solo.

At least Ana gave it her best shot, though. Well actually, no she didn't. It was a shot but it couldn't be described as best as it wasn't even good. However, it was an awful lot better than Mariano. He came, he looked sheepish (as he always does), he mumbled. In Spanish. Nary a word in English. Good for him. No pandering to the bloody British while they're occupying the Peñón. What did he say, though? Even in Spanish. Very little. As one astute observer has commented, Mariano manages to say nothing in several languages.

Isn't this all a bit unfair, though? Why should there be an expectation that English should be needed at all or, if it is, that it might be anything more than dreadful? It shouldn't matter and, for Spanish commentators, it almost certainly wouldn't have mattered, had it not been for the massive great hole that Spanish politicians have dug for themselves in respect of language learning. English language learning. It's all very well them coming up with mad schemes to unleash teachers who have no grasp of the English language beyond that of John Cleese's hapless Manuel on a generation of schoolchildren, but they should lead from the front and show off their English prowess. Mariano doesn't, but then he doesn't even lead from behind.

It is unfair. Can Dave converse fluently in Spanish? Perhaps he can, but we know that Major, despite having been a frequent semi-resident in Spain for twenty years, can't even put two words together, let alone demand a "relaxing cup of café con leche". But then Major was never expected to go in front of the IOC and deliver a speech in Spanish. It would have been in English.

Ana Botella and her cup of coffee? Give the poor woman a break.

Any comments to please.

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