Thursday, 31 May 2012
from Russia with love
It all started when he first clapped eyes on a die-cast model of the Munich tram at the London Transport Museum, which I bought for him and he carried with him pretty much everywhere for two years. That one eventually broke in two at the ‘bendy bit’ in the middle (the bendy bit is the reason for their supremacy over trains, cars, tractors etc.) and was replaced with a new one, which appears to be sponsored by the sweet manufacturer Haribo, and hails I am told from Nuremberg. This was bought in lieu of a larger red model, which simply won Snooks’ heart but was sadly beyond any reasonable non birthday/ Christmas toy price range. He has been promised it when either of these days next arrives.
In the meantime he has satisfied his yearnings with repeat viewings of the tram footage available on You Tube which includes three short films of our local line, the one we have traversed many a time for no good reason other than to reach the end and come back. We are also now acquainted with most of the Manchester routes, in person and on film and have watched lovely footage of the old London double deckers meeting their sad end on the scrap heap, a scene which kept Snooks rapt with anguish for some time.
Now, today, we have been watching his latest favourite, a short film about the demise and resurrection of trams in Russia, all of which is conducted in Russian, of course. Snooks is undeterred. He loves the scenes of snowy Moscow and St Petersburg where the locals, clad in great coats and rabbit fur hats, tell the sad story of the ripped out tram tracks. That ability of young children to easily cross language barriers, it would seem, translates to film . He has never commented that he does not understand what they are saying. I am waiting for him to spout his first Russian words and for the first (but I am certain not the last) time have out-languaged me.
At this rate, I can see that his cousins who all speak three or four languages a piece will have to be drafted in to translate by the time he reaches puberty. As we watched the clip together I felt the thrill of his unknown future, an unknown that used to fill me with dread in my own youth. I wondered if he might one day design a new eco-friendly transport system for our cities and travel around the world promoting it. I tried to imagine him living in some foreign capital, a grown man, handling it.
“Maybe I could drive a tram one day, and then I could walk from one end to the other to go back the other way,” he said, snuggling up to me on the sofa. Yes that will do nicely too. So long as it has a pantograph and a bendy bit in the middle, we shall have all we need.