After the annual pilgrimage back to the land of our birth, we’re back in England with an extra suitcase full of Canadian goodness and ready to take on the new year. The fall went by pretty quickly and was largely taken-up with work, settling-in, more work, more settling-in, and getting an impressive round of colds and injuries including my very first car accident!
It was. The worst.
In between all the work, settling-in, and hot baths full of Epsom salts
How do we keep up with our rock and roll lifestyle?!
we did manage to do some exploring! When we were getting ready to move to Finland, we entertained grand notions of all the places we were going to see…but, in the end, we mostly just stayed in and explored the backyard when we had a weekend or holiday. Not that we never did ANYTHING…we saw a fair bit of Finland as well as Rome and a bit of the UK…but it was hardly a “let’s go jet-setting every weekend” kind of arrangement…which suited us just fine.
The world’s best Bakewell tart recipe isn’t going to just fall out of the sky…it will require visiting lots and lots of local tea rooms.
There are several reasons for this. Even within Europe, travel is expensive. Time expensive and money expensive. Not NEARLY as expensive as travel from Canada, but when the choice is buying a comfortable piece of furniture to sleep on for the next couple of years vs a couple of weekends hanging around some cool place, plus the instant gratification of pyjamas and poutine AS SOON as I get home on a Friday, I will go for the sleeping place. Perhaps lamely, but I live my life by my rules. Man. Perhaps this is why we’re finding English village life so agreeable…
“Town? Town?! The hell would we go in town for?! If you can’t find it at the Ely market, you don’t need it!”
Going to the local markets and keeping up with the gardening aside, we have been enjoying getting to know our new home and exploring when the mood strikes. I was initially very excited to move to the UK because I’m a huge fan of verdant countryside and old buildings, and Ely comes through in a big way, but we’ve been enjoying forays into “the big city” every now and again.
Even in the “winter”
In October and November, we went into London twice – once during half-term, which was a giant mistake as the entire school-aged population of England and half of France was also there; and once on a normal weekend, which was much less crowded. We went to a comedy show, visited a few of my favourite food shops, and finally made it to the Tower of London to take in the incredible Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation.
We also participated in a British rite of passage: taking the last train home from London. Adam has covered this pretty extensively here, but here’s a pro tip for you: NEVER take the last train home from London. On a related note: do you like loud football songs and the smell of cheap beer and adolescent shenanigans? If so, consider taking the last train home from London. And it’s not like Canadians are never drunk in public
Pictured: SOLID evidence to the contrary
…it’s just that I haven’t yet gained the ability to differentiate between sarcastic politeness, accidental rudeness, and actual serious rudeness, which helps me avoid dodgy confrontations with drunk people.
Dumbledore didn’t prepare me for this
Which brings me to an interesting point that didn’t come up so much in Finland: Trial By Accent.
In the UK, many are possessed of an impressively accurate ear for accents that can, in some cases, pinpoint the speaker’s place of birth to within two pubs, and some then reveal this in gleeful and often judgmental tones to anyone who will listen.
Buddy says “down” home. Must be from Musquodoboit.
Our accents also get us a lot of attention from these types of people who fall into one of two camps: “American, is it?” and “You must be Canadian. I have cousins in *insert small town in Saskatchewan here* and reckon I can tell the difference.”
Consider this exchange between me and a lady waiting for the same bus this week:
Madam: “That bus driver is from Birmingham”
Me: “…oh. Um…splendid” (notice how well I speak British)
Madam: “It’s thick as anything…can’t you hear it? A Birmingham accent.”
Me: “I haven’t quite acquired the ear for accents – I’m new here.”
Madam: “Aaaaaaah an American. Well, this chap is from a town called Birmingham.”
Me: “Canadian, actually.”
Madam: “Well I have family in Massachusetts, so that’s all very similar.”
I sound nothing like someone from Massachusetts. It wouldn’t be polite to point that out. Biological imperative to be polite…taking…over
Me: “Yes, they’re practically just down the road.”
Madam: “You there! Say something to this lady in your Birmingham accent!”
This resulted in me trying to convey polite interest to Madam with the right side of my face, and deep embarrassment to the bus driver with the left side,
..which looks a little something like this
resulting in a sprained face.
In Finland, we were at a linguistic disadvantage, but Finns are polite and nonchalant enough to either ignore your accent, or ask you where you’re from without making it sound like the opening statement to the Spanish inquisition…which I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting.
I don’t know why this bothers me so much…but it really, really does. Perhaps this is because I don’t know where we fit into this categorical accent scheme, but back home (pronounced “bahck home” in Nova Scotian patois), everybody sounds like a fisherman to the untrained ear, but you’re probably related somehow so there’s no point in being rude about it. It’s more of a, “hey, buddy…you’re from Cape Breton?! What’s your father’s name? I have a pile of cousins in Margaree! What are you doing down here?!” etc etc. Accent curiosity isn’t the worst thing in the world by a large stretch, but it is weird after two years of living in a country where nothing is more important than an individual’s privacy to suddenly find ourselves in a place where strangers are interested in details about our lives…and it isn’t always annoying. Consider this exchange with my egg farmer:
Egg Farmer: “North American accent, eh? Would you two be from Canada or the US?”
Me: “Canada. Can’t you tell by how good-looking we are and our superior taste in eggs?”
Egg Farmer laughs and now we’re best friends. Also, delicious eggs!
But seeing as how no one’s going to pass me off as a duchess at the embassy ball anytime soon…
So THEN buddy friggin’ SMOKES the puck into the net on the rebound and I says to Adam, “by Christ, that was some shot!” and HE says, “that was right some nice!”
perhaps, to avoid scrutiny, I’ll take a page from this chap’s book…