skip to Main Content

My Christmas Break

It’s taken a while to write this post for reasons that shall become obvious but better late than never.

On 17th December 2023 I fractured my wrist. How did I do it? Earlier in the day, I had been at my big birthday lunch that I had organised for my family. It was an important weekend because everyone expects you to celebrate a milestone birthday well. My birthday proper was (and is) on 18th December and I was going to celebrate with a tea at the Ritz with girlfriends. Since my birthday falls so close to Christmas, my relatives gave me birthday presents and Christmas presents. One of the Christmas presents was a poinsettia plant. 

On returning home, I decided to put the poinsettia plant into a nice vase which was sitting on top of one of my kitchen cupboards. To get there I used a chair and stood on the kitchen counter to retrieve the vase. I usually am barefooted when I do that but, on this occasion, I was wearing woolly socks. Big mistake! Once I put the vase on the counter, I turned to step down on the chair. However, I misjudged how much space there was behind me on the counter. My woolly socks made me slip and lose my footing. I must have only flown through six-seven feet of air but it was clearly enough to harm me. I landed on my left side, with my left forearm taking the brunt of the fall. My wrist snapped on impact. 

Initially, I thought that I had hurt my tendons and not broken any bones, although I could see that my wrist was not straight. I think that I was in shock because I stood up and put the poinsettia plant in the vase, as if nothing had happened! However, doing that minor task was so excruciatingly painful that I realised it wasn’t muscular pain, so I telephoned the National Health Service’s telephone helpline. They sent me to a small, local hospital but its x- ray department was closed, so I was bounced to a large, local hospital with a 24-hour x-ray department. There, I was triaged and x-rayed. Sure enough, I had fractured both bones at the wrist. 

Unfortunately, because my birthday loomed so large in my mind, I didn’t have medical thoughts nor did I contemplate my injury’s implications on my translation work. All I could think about was my social life.  Would I be able to make tea at the Ritz with my friends the next day and would the sling’s colour clash with my party dress? 

 We have two bones in our forearm: the ulna and the radius. The ulna is wider at the elbow than it is at the wrist. It is a bit cylindrical in shape and comes to a tip just below our wrist. Well, I fractured the tip of my ulna. The radius is slimmer than the ulna at the elbow but when it reaches the bottom of your hand, it becomes quite bulbous and chunky. I managed to break that completely. The doctor, Marco, who showed me the x-rays was very transparent, if you’ll excuse the pun. He showed me exactly what I had fractured. I could see a wavy, horizontal line across the width of my radius. He said that I had a distal ulna and radial fracture. He was satisfied that I wouldn’t need an operation. That hadn’t even occurred to me. He was satisfied that plates wouldn’t need to be fitted. I hadn’t conceived of that idea either. He felt that the factures could be healed by realigning the displaced bones and putting them in a cast for at least six weeks. 

I didn’t realise it at the time but realigning displaced bones is quite a skill. Doctors and nurses don’t have the benefit of a camera in your arm to guide them nor a live x-ray to guide them either. They do it by touch and sight. Before the realignment, I was given an anaesthetic in the form of an inhaler. Marco injected very little liquid into it as far as I’m concerned. Marco turned to the nurse and asked her, “Are you ready?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Now, I know he was asking her if she was ready to manipulate my displaced bones and realign them. She was and they began. 

There’s an English expression, “I saw stars”. It usually describes people who have been concussed but it also covers eye-watering pain. During the realignment I not only saw stars but the entire constellation in the night sky. I swore so much! Nevertheless, I had the presence of mind to ask Marco to stop. I said, “Stop. This is extremely painful” twice but the nurse said, “Keep puffing”, so I puffed as if I were giving birth! 

Then, I had to have the cast put on. That was made of plaster of Paris. On the one hand, it is brilliant. It is a simple, cheap and low-tech method for immobilising bones that’s been used for decades. On the other hand, because plaster of Paris comes in the form of a wet bandage that needs to be applied not too loosely and not too tightly when Marco applied it I saw the Milky Way! After the anaesthetic had kicked in, Marco returned to check the plaster of Paris cast was rock hard and that my wrist had been immobilised. My pain level dropped markedly, thankfully. He sent me off to the x-ray department and when I returned, he was very happy with the x-ray. The bones had been realigned into their original, neutral position. He gave me a letter for my follow-up appointment, all the self-care instructions that I needed and mostly importantly his blessing for tea at the Ritz. My sling was navy-blue and my party dress was pink. 

 A few weeks ago, when I was discussing my accident with a friend, she asked me, “What have you learnt?” I have learnt two things.  Firstly, the human body is absolutely amazing! As soon as a bone breaks, stem cells from the surrounding tissue, bone marrow and blood migrate to the fracture. The cells start to grow on the edges of the fractured bones and in the direction of the void to form a bridge of soft cartilage. This is replaced by a hard, bone-like callus and that, in turn, is replaced by new, mature bone. The immediacy of this healing process means that it is crucial to reset fractured bones as soon as possible. I’m very impressed that it only takes six weeks for bones to heal. I’m grateful that my arm wasn’t in a cast for longer. The day that my cast came off the doctor, Toby, said that the condition of my bones’ repair was “excellent”. 

I saw a physiotherapist for the first time yesterday. Of the ten physiotherapy exercises that Toby said I could do, the physiotherapist retained one, modified two and jettisoned the remaining seven. He didn’t want to irritate the wrist. Therefore, instead of doing ten exercises three times a day, now I must do three exercises every two hours. It’s quite demanding to do them during a working day. I do what I can. I do feel that I am making incremental improvements for which I am grateful.

 Secondly, I have been reminded how wonderful people are. In a situation like this, I would expect my family, friends and neighbours to rally round. They have and I have felt loved and cared for. However, it’s been the kindness of complete strangers that has been touching and heart-warming. On the night of the fracture, two taxi-drivers volunteered to tie up my shoe laces for me. A few days later, on the way to the pharmacy, when I asked a newsagent for help, he couldn’t tie up my shoe laces quickly enough for me. On the trains, lots of passengers have given up their seats for me and offered to carry my drag bag upstairs. At work, one barrister ferried my bag and coat between the courtroom and consultation room. Another barrister opened doors for me for the entire two weeks that we worked on the same trial. I could go on. So many people have been so kind. Now, it’s not the first time that I have been ill. Unfortunately, in the past I have been taken very ill in public and it was complete strangers’ knowledge of first aid that saved my bacon. This recent wave of compassion has just served to consolidate my view on the fundamental goodness of human nature and people. 


An EU Citizen Again!

In 2016 I was robbed of my EU citizenship. As a holder of a British passport I had been free to circulate around the European Union freely, offering my services without hinderance. I was also able to benefit from free hospital care when I fell ill on holiday in Venice in 2012. As soon as the hospital established that I was a bonafide EU citizen, I received all sorts of care and tests. When Brexit came into effect on 1st January 2020, all of that ended.

This year on recent business trips to Helsinki I was asked at least six questions at Helsinki Airport’s Passport Control about the nature of my visit, where I was staying, how long my trip was for, the name of my hotel, etc. I found it all rather intrusive. Was this my lot as a British citizen? Did I have to put up with it? No.

I found out about La Ley de Memoria Democratica de 2022 (The Democractic Memory Act 2022). To cut a very long story short, it enables Spaniards who were in exile after the Spanish Civil War to recover their Spanish citizenship, as well as their children’s and grandchildren’s citizenship. It also provides for Spanish ladies who married foreign nationals to have their children and grandchildren recognised as Spanish citizens too. Therefore, I visited the website of the Spanish Consulate in London and read the numerous pages to double-check that everything that I had heard about the LMD really, truly applied to me. It did, so I began the application process.

First, I had to obtain birth and marriage certificates from the General Register Office.  Three weeks went by. Then, they had to be legalised by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Three weeks went by. These certifcates needed to be translated. Fortunately, that was done in a jiffy. So far, so good for the British documents. However, the Spanish certificates that I needed to present had to have been issued recently so that they were valid for six months. The most important certificate was my mother’s birth certificate. The Civil Registry in Ejea de los Caballeros, Zaragoza, Spain had a skeleton staff during July and August, so it took three months to obtain the certificate. However, when it arrived there was no date stamp on it showing that it had recently been issued. Many telephone calls and a huge phone bill later, I finally received the dated certificate in September.

I put all the certificates and translations into a lovely folder. It looked like a work of art to me. On 4th October I had my appointment with the Spanish Consulate. There was an office set aside for LMD applications. The door sign said ‘LMD’. This looked very organised. Everything seemed to be going very smoothly until the civil servant saw that my father had been born in Tangier, even though he was a British citizen and had had his birth registered at the British Consulate in Tangier the day after he was born. The civil servant asked me to find a birth certificate for my father from a Moroccan civil registry office. I explained that back in the 1930s Tangier was an international zone governed by numerous countries. Foreign nationals in Tangier always registered the birth of their children at their countries’ consulate. While the civil servant agreed with me, she said that I needed to provide written evidence to that effect. It was so disheartening. However, I was not going to be defeated. Within a week I sent her evidence from the Moroccan and French Consulates confirming that no such person as my father existed in their respective archives. Moreover, a Spanish historian specialising in nineteenth century architecture in Tangier confirmed that there was never a Moroccan civil registry office in Tangier in the 1930s. This proved to be sufficient to advance my application. The civil servant telephoned me personally and gave me the good news.

Initially, I became excited all over again. I have always felt that dual nationality is a fair reflection of my background and life. I felt like I was within touching distance of fulfilling this long sought-after aspiration.  Three or four weeks later, I received a Spanish birth certificate and a consular registration number. The latter enabled me to obtain an appointment with the Nationals Department of the Spanish Consulate and make my passport application. The appointment was on 10th November and my passport arrived today! I’m so looking forward to travelling freely around Europe again.


Official Translations

During the lull of the summer holidays I decided to put my spare time to good use by doing some research on becoming assessed by the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) to be a translator for official translations. I have been a translator for over thirty years and have translated birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as academic transcripts for clients. However, I wanted to go the extra mile and apply for the Qualification Supported Assessment (QSA). It is a process that endorses your qualifications, translation experience, professional references, continuing professional development and a good working knowledge of the ITI’S Code of Conduct. My application was approved very quickly and I was offered Qualified Membership as a translator, which complements my existing Qualified ITI Membership as an interpreter nicely.

Now, I am able to offer official translations. What does that mean exactly? Well, an ‘official’ translation is usually defined as a translation that has been stamped by an authority. However, this definition varies from country to country. In the UK, I can translate a document from Spanish into English and can affix an ITI Certification Seal (seen above) to certify the translation. Normally, my translation would be accompanied by a statement from me attesting that the translation is a true, complete and accurate translation of the original document that I received. That’s a certified translation.

There are three other types of ‘official’ translations: a legalised translation, a notarised translation and a sworn translation. A legalised translation can also be known as an apostilled translation. The competent UK authority for issuing an Apostille on the back of an original document or translation is the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s Legalisation Office. I had some of my own documents legalised recently and the FCDO returned the apostilled documents much quicker than I expected. What you need to know about these documents is that the FCDO doesn’t attest to the veracity of the contents. It authenticates the signature and ensures that the document is recognised by all countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention of 1961.

A notarised translation has a statement from the translator that has been signed by the Notary too or the Notary writes a declaration concerning the original document and translation. These notarised translations are normally intended for overseas use and for offering translator accountability. The Notary cannot endorse the quality of the translation, unless he/she is a Qualified ITI Member in the relevant language combination.

Finally, there’s the sworn translation. Most Spanish-speaking clients ask me for this type of translation and I always have to explain that the UK doesn’t have such a thing as a sworn translator. It’s due to different legal systems. In Spain, ‘sworn’ translators with a degree or equivalent qualification are appointed and accredited by the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y Cooperacion (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperacion). The Ministry then places them on its official list of ‘sworn’ translators who may produce a ‘certified’, ‘sworn’ or ‘official’ translation.

After my summer holiday, from 1st September I shall be open for business to translate your documents from Spanish into English. Go to the Contact page to get my details and send me an email or telephone me. I’ll be happy to hear from you.





The Battle of Arapiles

I have a close connection to Salamanca, Spain because the capital of the province is my mum’s hometown and she still has a lot of family in the province. Between 1986 and 1988 I lived and worked in Salamanca. I got to know my mother’s cousins and their children well. I am still in touch with some of them today. One of my mother’s cousins, Antonio Gomez, undertook a genealogy project on his retirement around the time that I was in Salamanca. He visited all the churches in the province and made a note of all the births, marriages and deaths of Gomez relatives. It resulted in two volumes of the Gomez family history and it is thanks to him that I can trace my Gomez ancestors back to 1670 and know about my ancestor Roque Gomez. Who’s he? Read on.

The Battle of Arapiles, also known as the Battle of Salamanca, was held on 22 July 1812 in which an Anglo-Portuguese-Spanish alliance under the command of Earl Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont’s French forces at Arapiles, south of Salamanca during the Peninsular War 1807-1814 and the Spanish War of Independence.The Earl rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular War and famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Afterwards, he became the Duke of Wellington, served briefly as Prime Minister and then was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.

So, how is this relevant to me and my intepreting life? Well, it just so happens that my ancestor Roque Gomez fought in the cavalry brigade of Julian Sanchez which Earl Wellington was in charge of during the Battle of Arapiles. Antonio Gomez, my mother’s cousin, found out that Roque was a scout for Julian Sanchez.

Fast forward a couple of centuries and nine generations. It was November 2022 and I was interpreting for a delegation of Colombian Senators in the UK Parliament. They were about to sit down with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Colombia, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Latin America and the Parliamentary Friends of Colombia to have a discussion about Colombian matters, principally the peace process.  The day before this meeting I saw on my programme that one of the UK parliamentarians attending would be Charles Wellesley, the Ninth Duke of Wellington. He inherited several of the First Duke’s titles, making him, at present, the Ninth Prince of Waterloo, Tenth Duke of Cuidad Rodrigo, Ninth Duke of Victoria and Ninth Marquis de Torres Vedras. I could not resist the temptation to introduce myself and tell the Ninth Duke about the very distant family connection. He knew about the Battle of Arapiles, having visited Arapiles Grande and Arapiles Chico, like me. He asked me about the role that Roque Gomez played. I wished to talk for longer but the roundtable discussion needed to start.

At the end of the meeting as British parliamentarians broke off into little groups to have individual conversations with the Colombian senators and take photographs, I took another chance and asked the Duke whether he would mind having a photograph taken of the two of us. I am delighted to say that he agreed and the result is above. My mother and Antonio Gomez’s daughter, my second cousin Belen, were over the moon when they heard about my encounter with the Duke. I confess that I am too! I love it when family history comes to life!

Being Part of the Solution

Last week I genuinely felt that I was part of the solution. Colombian senators visited the UK, meeting their counterparts in the Houses of Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. There were many discussions about the Colombian and North Irish peace processes. Similarities were found but there were also differences. The Colombian senators learnt a great deal from their trip to Belfast. It was a privilege to be involved and I hope that both countries achieve a lasting peace for their people.

A Success Story

This year I have been endeavouring to improve my consecutive interpreting skills by attending practice sessions with David Violet to work on how I take notes while listening to a speaker. For most of the year I was taking notes using biro and notepad but then in September another classmate, Eric Liao, gave a presentation on digital note-taking. He talked about Notability software and Apple Pencils. This was like manna from Heaven for me because I had been wanting to return to using my iPad for consecutive note-taking. I got the software and pencil and then dived into this new modus operandi at the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ CityLab Conference on 10th October 2022. The lady next to me in the photo above is Nathalia Sanchez, aka GLeo, a Colombian muralist, who was being interviewed by Barratunde Thurston about her work. The slide is taken from Eric Liao’s presentation on digital note-taking for consecutive interpretation which he gave at the American Translators’ Association on 15th October 2022. Congratulations Eric! I am delighted to have been included as a success story too! The extract that he has highlighted is in yellow is the video clip below. GLeo was a wonderful artist to interpret for because her work is so inspiring.



Today, I had my first interpreting assignment using Qonda. I was a little nervous at first because connecting with the technican who was going to brief me proved problematic. However, once we were on Zoom, I was delighted to see the console. The video window showing you into your booth partner’s booth was particularly exciting. Unfortunately, the remote conference call was very short so I was working by myself but I can’t wait to work with a colleague on a long conference. It would get rid of having to connect with Skype or WhatsApp to recreate booth conditons. It looks like I will also be able to hear my booth partner and the relay without creating any independent back channels. That would indeed be a step forward in RSI. Well done Qonda!


Note-Taking for Consecutive Interpreting

At last! In January I was finallly able to do a course, not a day or an hour-long webinar, but a course on note-taking for consecutive interpreting. I learnt about it when I registered for Terp Summit 2022 and attended an online free webinar on note-taking for consecutive interpreting given by David Violet, President of l’Association internationale des interpretes de conference (AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters) in the USA. David trained at the presitigious Ecole Superieure d’Interpretes et de Traducteurs (ESIT), Paris.

I really enjoyed the class and found myself navigating to his website. There were two free classes on symbols and the concept of understanding with quizzes at the end to check that you had understood them. There was also a twenty-module course which I could do at my own pace and so I enrolled. I completed it in a month. I liked the way that David took things one step at a time and covered the basics very comprehensively before moving on to the next “baby step”. The course was and remains beautifully targeted. What became apparent was that I had to practice my new note-taking skills to embed them properly in my brain.

I began practice sessions with David in February and they have been extremely helpful in embedding the note-taking, as well as helping my simultaneous interpreting skills. I focus on the substance of what someone is saying like never before. In the practice sessions we listen to a speech in English and then interpret it into English. I think that this works very well for interpreters with English as a B or even a C language but I would like to listen to a speech in Spanish and interpret it into English or listen to a speech in English and interpret it into Spanish. I had a go at doing the latter last Saturday. I was in a break-out room with another Spanish interpreter, Fabiola Tortajada. I raced through the speech because I was expecting the timer to appear on the screen very soon. It was nerve-wracking and I forgot the Spanish word for ‘permafrost’. However, I got through it all and my colleague’s feedback was quite complimentary. Thank you to David, Fabiola and all the interpreters in the Saturday group.

Subtitling, A New Year and A New Skill!

It feels great to start the New Year with a new skill! In October 2021 I started the Basic Subtitling course at University College London and since then I have learnt a great deal.

I have learnt to:

  • set in and out times of dialogue, also known as time-cueing,
  • transcribe English dialogue (intralingual transcription) and translate English dialogue into Spanish or Spanish dialogue into English (interlingual subtitling),
  • use ten different condensation techniques,
  • keep to the 17 characters per second limit (which is very hard),
  • set pauses between subtitles to 80 milliseconds,
  • subtitle within one to six second(s) duration,
  • segment text,
  • respect shot changes (again very hard),
  • synchronise,
  • match frame rates and resolution between software programmes and
  • deal with register, dialect and culture-bound terms, especially extralinguistic ones.

One of our assignments was to take a clip of no more than five minutes and subtitle it into a foreign languge, Spanish in my case. I chose a sequence from ‘Singing In The Rain’ which You Tube described as ‘A Noble Profession’. It was quite challenging because there was so much fast and overlapping dialogue. Moreover, there were cultural references to Shakespeare, Ibsen and Ethel Barrymore. The jokes and puns were difficult too. At the beginning of the sequence Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is mobbed by adoring fans and he shouts to his lifelong friend, Cosmo Brown, “Call me a cab!” Cosmo replies in English, “Okay, you’re a cab”. Above is how I subtitled Cosmo’s reply in Spanish.

I received a variety of other clips to subtitle, all much harder than the previous one to subtitle. It was fun trying to resolve the problems, even if it did take a long time! Hopefully, as I subtitle more I will get faster. At the moment I am using Subtitle Workshop and Subtitle Edit to work on. I need to familiarise myself with professional subtitling software.  I have still to learn how to convert videos into different formats and how to transfer srt files into formats other than Notepad. Although this basic course has been demanding I intend to study the Advanced Subtitling course at UCL later this year.

Sound Solutions On A Covid-19 Trial

Back in May I blogged about my first Covid-19 trial in which I was essentially an observer because the defendant on trial had such good English. I noted all the new changes made to make a courtroom Covid-free and anticipated that when I had to interpret for real in those conditions it would be quite demanding. Well, last week I found out just how demanding it was.

I was asked to interpret for a defendant on trial who had no or very little English. The regulations had changed so there was no screen in front of the judge or the barristers but the jury remained socially distanced, with screens in front of them. The courtroom was so short of space in the jury area that three jurors had their desks set up on the floor of the court, next to the barristers’ horizontal benches. There were hand sanitisers, tissues, sterile glove boxes and bottled water everywhere.

Everyone was wearing a mask save for the clerk, the judge and barristers when they were speaking. Once inside the dock the defendant and I were allowed to take off our masks although the custody officer always kept his on.  I sat with a seat between me and the defendant. He was unvaccinated which made me nervous. We had an ample supply of polystyrene cups, a big water jug and our own sanitiser.

The first day of the trial was a shock to the system in many ways because I thought that it was a one-day trial when in fact it was listed for seven! I had to sort things out with the List Office quite quickly and by the end of the day I was completely booked for the trial.

The next shock to the system was the sheer number of sound problems that I encountered in the dock. Firstly, the air conditioning was humming very loudly. Secondly, I could only hear the judge when she spoke and not the court clerk, defence counsel or the prosecutor. Thirdly, the custody officer kept jangling his keys. Maybe it was my perception. The court clerk blithely tried to start proceedings by identifying the defendant but I could not hear her so I informed the court and I asked for the clerk to speak into a microphone. I am delighted to say that the court resolved this by giving me a Sennheiser RI 150 mono infrared receiver in the form of a stethoscope headset. It was my new best friend for the rest of the week! I heard the clerk beautifully. The barristers were audible even when they had their backs to me and I heard the witnesses perfectly. It was so nice not to finish the day without a raging headache from straining to hear what was being said. What a godsend. I hope that HM Court and Tribual Service retains this practice after the pandemic.

The next problem was organising the area around my neck. I had to wear my interpreter’s identification badge which was on a ribbon round my neck. It was constantly in the way when I reached for different things. Then, I needed to have my reading glasses at hand. Sometimes I folded them and hung them on my t-shirt. Other times I put them on the seat next to me. Obviously, there was the Sennheiser which had to dangle from one ear as I needed to monitor myself. It was odd doing that with a Sennheiser receiver rather than one of the comfortable mono-aural headsets that I have at home. I am glad that I didn’t have to wear a mask because it would have obstructed the area around my ears, muffled my voice and generated a lot of heat.

After that my problems were standard occupational hazards: interpreting for two hours without a break, avoiding increasing the sound of the Sennheiser to prevent my own voice from going up, compensating for the back-ache that sitting in the same position gives you, sight-reading a statement in English with my glasses and Sennheiser on, reading the statement so the defendant could see while keeping a metre’s distance and remembering during my much-needed breaks to look up terms that had escaped me.

During the trial there were Covid-19 developments. The complainant had to self-isolate so she gave her evidence over the cloud video platform. She used headphones so the reception was very clear. Later in the trial, the prosecutor had to self-isolate too. A relative of his had tested positive for Covid-19 and although he had no symptoms he had to dial in using the cloud video platform as well. The reception continued to be great. There was no feedback or echo because he knew to use decent headphones, Airpods I think. He performed his cross-examinations digitally and gave his closing speech that way too. The prosecutor admitted that it had been a first for him. It was a first for me too.

I am very grateful for the use of all this technology to solve audio, medical and logistical problems. Normally, these sorts of changes take forever to be introduced into courtrooms so it was very refreshing to see how swift the courts can be.


Back To Top
Skip to toolbar