I am very happy to have found such an interesting forum and to have received an excellent detailed answer from a native speaker to my first question, and I am very tempted to ask about something else I have not yet fully understood in the Russian language. I am very curious what the native speakers have to say.
At my university in Japan I have got an exercise on sequence of tenses, and the exercise is to translate the following to Russian:
I sliced sashimi from a convulsing squid - actually the one I had wanted to eat myself - and served the guest waiting for his meal. Walking back, I glanced in the mirror to see whether he was looking at me.
My approach is to always strive in the most utmost manner to translate absolutely flawlessly and in the most natural way and to deeply understand why I make this or that choice.
Thinking hard and making difficult choices, I came up with this:
Я нарезала на сашими конвульсирующего кальмара - кстати, того самого, которого хотела было сама съесть - и подала ожидавшему свою трапезу гостю. Идя обратно, я глянула в зеркало, не смотрит ли он на меня.
I am still very unsure whether I made the best choices, and feel that I have not yet fully understood sequence of tenses in Russian.
I would like to humbly ask the natural speakers to answer the following questions of mine:
Конвульсирующего or конвульсировавшего? Are both variants acceptable? Is any of them preferable? If so, which one? I chose the present tense to stress that the squid was convulsing as I sliced it.
Хотела было or захотела было or раньше хотела or раньше захотела? I was taught that the former two variants are the proper traditional ones and used by well-educated people, whilst the latter two variants are simplified and used by poorly educated simpletons. Choosing between the first two variants, I chose the first one because it is more neutral and seems to better fit the original text.
Ожидавшему or ожидающему? I intuitively chose the past tense because the point is not that the guest was waiting at the moment at which I served him, but that he had waited. At the very moment at which I served him he obviously was not waiting anymore.
Смотрит or смотрел? I was taught that the sequence of tenses in indirect speech is natural (он сказал, что принимает трапезу), whilst in relative clauses - attracted (он увидел рыбу, которая барахталась). According to my professor, it is a grave mistake to break this rule. But how do I have to classify the clause in the sentence with the mirror?! It is neither indirect speech nor a relative clause.
At how many places in my Russian translation I utterly failed, leaving hints I am not a native speaker? Word choices, word sequence, and so on. I would be happy to receive frank criticisms.
I am humbly looking forward to reading enlightening answers of native speakers of this highly complex and powerful language.