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MESSAGES TO A FRIEND

Orange Tom

2001

Translated by Andrew Fentem





Dear Frank,

Donít tell me youíre blue with fear at the idea of going to speak Dutch at Orange with a manager from a country where the colour is a national obsession. Thereís no point in getting all worked up and blushing red with shame just because youíre going to have to speak a language which is not your mother tongue. After all, handling a language with undue care isnít dangerous. The main thing is not to arrive with a frog in your throat or remain silent when he asks a question that is somewhat uninspiring. Just imagine the Dutch guy you're going to meet is a big tomcat. You're going to have to say something, as otherwise heís going to think you give in too easily. But donít think either that, just because he speaks with a bit of a guttural accent, heís definitely going to get his claws out. As you know, when our fellow countrymen from the other side of the linguistic barrier do get their claws out, they tend to be lionís claws, so make the right choice...

But please, this time, donít spend an hour playing cat and mouse with him while walking around the building not even realize itís actually theirs. And if, despite all thatís happened, he calls you up on your mobile phone, donít end up having to tell them that the callís going to be cut off in thirty seconds as youíre about to run out of credit. Even though your mobile is already Orange they will straight away mark your CV with a big red cross, in one fell swoop damning all your chances. Yet the green light might have been just two steps away.

Cats particularly like mice and theyíll do everything they can to catch you. Besides, Iím sure you have the ability NOT to slip through the net. Itís important, you know, as once youíve slipped through this net your potential employers are so generously (OK - joke) holding out for you, youíll end up slipping through other nets too, which are even more important Ė like the social security net, I mean. You'll be left with no option but to hope that the few euros you get from the occasional sympathetic passer-by donít drop through the holes in your trouser pockets whilst begging on the Rue Neuve, the main shopping street in Brussels (yes, I know that you know that, but this letter will be read by English, Belgian, French, Dutch and Italian people).

Of course, the Orange net will only protect you for a few months, but it will at least make you appear a bit moreÖermÖ'net' as we say in French Ė Ďsharpí I think is the English word. Plus it will provide you with some extra few vitamins to give you the hair of the dog and not doubt yourself so much.

Be brave, Frank, the whole of Europe is behind you!

PS 1 Regarding that first interview you had with your former colleague from Unif, was that because you greased his palm or what ?
PS 2 Iím also protected by an Anglo-Dutch shell. Each to his own, if you know what I mean.
PS 3 If this Dutch manager asks you if you know Holland, just say :
-Yes, of course, itís the country where everything is leuk, lekker and gezellig.
Then heíll say
-Ja, precies !

And then youíll have it in your pocket!

Vincent