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Life in WW1 Country House Hospitals
© Leeds Museums and Galleries

Dialogue 7 - The Gardener and Afrikaans

As the tennis match fades away we hear the sounds of the gardener, John Barber, digging the vegetable patch; the sharp tang of a metal shovel hitting a stone, soil being thrown, etc. He is whistling quietly. 

John: (To himself) Never known weather like it. Wetter than a Whit Monday then blazing sun the next. (He bends to pull out some roots). Bloomin’ weeds! They’re growing faster than me carrots and…

He stops abruptly as he hears two men talking. They walk towards him along the path.

Viktor: (Speaking in Flemish) It would be good to join in with the British soldiers but I do not know what they are saying. 

Emile: Indeed. 

John: (To himself) Hmm, that sounds familiar. Dutch I’d say. Haven’t heard the like since my fighting days in South Africa... 

Viktor: Sometimes it is so frustrating. 

John: (To himself) I’m sure they said they’ve having trouble making ‘emselves understood over here. I’ll have a go m’ self...clears his throat... (continues in a halting Afrikaans)
Good morning. It is a fine afternoon.

Viktor: Uhhhh... Yes… it is. 

Viktor and Emile both laugh in surprise. They recognise the words but they can tell this man is not Belgian.

Viktor: Forgive us, we did not expect to understand you. And your accent is… it is not Dutch exactly? 

John: ‘Well at least they can understand me... I’ll try a bit more... I learned a little Afrikaans… when I was fighting the Boers...

Viktor: Well it is wonderful to hear someone else speak our language

They laugh again.

We leave this scene as the two parties continue in their awkward dialogue and the sounds of a warm summer day (insects, etc) take over the soundscape.