Archive for November, 2015

Remembering Who You Are …. .

After a long ride, I have come to understand how important accent and dialect are and I’d like to tell you why.

Although I currently live in Spain, any UK native will tell me that I am a Geordie, though I am not.  Although I was brought up only twenty miles or so south of Geordieland (the Newcastle area in the north-east of England), I am a colliery girl and I therefore speak ‘pitmatic’ but, nevertheless, as regards to accent and dialect, my comments are not affected by this separation.

At the age of eleven, while playing in the schoolyard just outside the teachers’ staffroom, someone had shouted “haway man!”  For those who don’t understand the north-eastern accent, this means ‘come on (with me)’.  In the classroom some half an hour later, the teacher asked “Whooooo was that shouting ‘haway man outside the staffroom’?”  It was me, though I didn’t admit to it.

At the age of eighteen, and married, I made a conscious decision that I did not want to speak with the accent I had and, by the age of about twenty five, I was able to make sure that every word ending ‘ing’ did indeed sound like that, other than ‘un’ as it did in my accent.  ‘Gowun’ became ‘going’, ‘makun’ became ‘making’ and so on.  I never did realise that ‘I’m’ came out as ‘ahm (like ‘arm’) and still does to this day.

Forty years later, and living in Spain, in an area where very few English people live, a couple came into our regular bar.  He was from Durham, about fifteen miles from where I was brought up and, after speaking with him for about an hour, I left for home.  Upon arrival, I was disgusted with myself because, all of a sudden, I realised that I had indeed been copying his accent and I felt an urgent need to  hopefully bump into him again, so as to apologise.

But then I realised that I hadn’t been copying him.  My native pronunciation  seemed to have arrived out of the blue and, in truth, was a natural lapse into my own mother pronunciation.  It felt so wrong but, on later occasions when I have met with people from the north-east of England, or when I return to visit family, there it is again, just waiting to be oozed into existence.

A few years ago, and after this aforementioned event, I read about a UK journalist who had lived in the USA for many years.  He said that he found that, when visiting England, his native UK pronunciation always popped out to play and, more interestingly, when in England but talking about his life in the USA, he spoke with an American accent.

Language is an incredible thing and I have learnt that you can’t leave your real self behind.  Now, at the age of retirement, I do wish that I spoke with my native accent, though I am so pleased to know that it does return now and then, to remind me who I am.

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on That Magical Hall of Mirrors.

If you’re sitting in a coffee shop and reading this article, then you’re blessed with good eyesight or, with corrective glasses, you still have that same gift. But have you ever wondered about your eyes, those balls of jelly, what it is about them that make you able to see and also what it must be like when glasses can’t do it for you?

In a nutshell, it all seems to be about light and reflection and, after having lost my eyesight on Christmas Eve in 2010, and having to wait until the following April to see almost as well as I did before, I get the strangest feeling of that ‘Hall of Mirrors’ that used to delight the oldest of us when we visited the shows at the seaside resorts, when our parents took us away for the day. In one mirror you could see yourself as a ‘page three’ shape, though the real you would need to lose a couple of stone and yet, in another, you could see what overeating could result in. Others offered a delight of strange shapes and the experience gave you a chance to laugh at yourself and at your friends and family. It was a simple pleasure worth having.

Bad eyesight that cannot be corrected takes the simplest of things away from you, things you didn’t really think about before. Descending stairs blend into one, contrasting floor tiles look like steps and you proceed with caution, the computer and the supermarket are definitely out, as the glare (what glare, I hear you ask) may prove crippling and the housework (every cloud has a silver lining) becomes difficult. You might pass friends in the street, only to be judged as unsociable and, as regards to travelling alone, what was once an independent act, now becomes a perilous journey. Independence slides away from you and your confidence finds a new but lower level. Those jelly balls might be the windows to the soul but they are also the levellers of life.

We all know that we don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone and that should make us appreciate health and safety regulations, rather than hate the time they take to implement, making life slower and, on occasions, less fun. After all, didn’t we find it fun to take the odd risk, rather than think sensibly? Well, those of us who didn’t do any damage to ourselves.

Maybe health and safety for eyes goes beyond wearing protective glasses. That’s why opticians are there and don’t forget the all-important ophthalmologist who can look inside your eye, spin it round in his own hall of mirrors, take a cross-section view without resorting to scissors or knives and maybe even see a trace of your family’s eyesight history at a glance. That glance could allow corrective action before there is a need for curative exploration.

We spend a lot of money on cars, as we always want one better than the last one yet, when it comes to health, we think about the cost. I’m still trying to work that one out but caring for your own health should be given the number one place on your busy agenda. Once that’s addressed, everything else falls into place.

Every morning when I open my eyes, I realise that I can see. Having been without it for that short period of time makes me appreciate just what I’ve got. The next time you’re sitting in the coffee shop on route to wherever you have to go, and taking a moment to do a little reading while you have your cuppa, remember to appreciate those wondrous jelly balls, as you can’t replace them for newer models!