‘Your head’s like a sponge,’ ma says. I never know if this is a compliment, that it sucks up information at an impressive rate, or a criticism, that the holes in it are so large that information passes through without a squeeze.
I’ve done a lot of squeezing over the years. I have seven language systems to keep functional. The magnificent seven. No room for any more. Hasn’t been for years. They are my stalwart band of wayward warriors under their English commander. If the commander forgets a word, they can provide a clue. Or rather a clew, to lead me through the maze.
I’ve just seen the first boat in this year’s single-handed boat race, Silverrudder Challenge, pass by on the sound. Half an hour later another comes past. Rush hour.
I want the Danish word. It refuses to come. I try to latch onto the word in the other languages. Lacunae. Holes. Desertion. I’ve been monoglotted.
I sit still. Breathe slowly and deeply. I see rowing boats, those we could hire as kids and sail for half an hour on the pond. We would be called in when our time is up: ‘Come in Number 3!’ One by one the boats come in, their names alongside their numbers on the prow: myldretid, rusningstid, rushtid, Spitzenzeit, spitsuur, heure de pointe.
‘Time for tea,’ ma says.