Expat In Bacolod

Stephen Bentley - Writer

When My Inner Anglophile Took Over My Life

Guest Post from a self-confessed Anglophile

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Self-Proclaimed Anglophile

I recall many conversations {with one of my high school best friends} about the idea of living in England “for a few years”, just to say we did. Anyone heavily into the music of British bands, anyone who had a fascination with The Royal Family or other aspects of British culture was a self-proclaimed Anglophile. America’s love of all things British has spanned decades, thanks to Julie Andrews, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Petula Clark, Elton John, Monty Python, Dr. Who, The Police, etc. By the mid-80’s, I had visions of getting a “flat” in London and immersing myself in the culture. Little did I know that, a decade later, I would have the chance to do just that.

I met and married a U.K. citizen in the days before the World Wide Web changed our lives forever. I have a blog in which I’ve already extensively written about my relationship/legal struggles; for this guest post, I would rather focus on other aspects of my time in England ~ the highlights and the perspective as an American living abroad.

Moving there was not an easy task. Obtaining a visa for permanent residence is time-consuming because it meant convincing the immigration department to let my son and me live in the country. In my case, I had to have a spouse visa, which meant proving that our relationship was “real”. We had to divulge a lot of personal information, including the history of our relationship. We also had to show that my son and I had established relationships with my then husband’s family, via their sworn affidavits. An appeal and a few court hearings later, I finally got a stamp in my passport granting my son and me “Indefinite Leave to Remain in the U.K.”.

The Queen’s English

Probably one of the biggest surprises was the discovery that not everyone spoke “the Queen’s English”. I had no idea that there were regional accents and it took a while to learn British terms, spellings, and pronunciations. Where I lived, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, many spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent and it took me a while to understand what people were saying. Even after having lived there for 16 years, I still had trouble catching some of the things people said, but it wasn’t as bad as when I first got there. Other regional accents ~ Liverpudlian {The Beatles}, Newcastle {Ant & Dec, Sting, Rowan Atkinson}, Cockney {Michael Caine, Phil Collins}, Birmingham {Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Walters a/k/a Molly Weasley}, just to give you an idea.

While we’re on the subject of accents, people are always asking me if my kiddos and I have British accents. My kiddos definitely, although my daughter’s seems to have faded a little in the time she’s been here. Did I ever have an accent? It depends on who you ask. The Brits were never fooled. As soon as I opened my mouth over there, their response was: “You’re not from ’round ‘ere. are ya?” My family and friends, however, thought it was very strong. Even American customer service reps I spoke to on the phone from time to time told me how much they loved my British accent and didn’t believe I’m originally from New Orleans. I’ve been told it’s more noticeable when I speak to my kiddos but, for the most part, it’s gone.

British Cadbury bar image

A fraction of Cadbury variety

Another discovery I made, shortly after I moved there, happened the first time I ventured out for a walk to the local newsagent {newsstand}. We, who live in America, had the privilege of trying 3 varieties of Cadbury ~ 4, if you count Cadbury Creme Eggs at Easter time ~ Dairy Milk, Fruit and Nut, and Caramello. Imagine my shock when I saw the selection available in the U.K. Oh my chocolate! Talk about being spoilt for choice! Speaking of Cadbury, I would highly recommend a visit to Cadbury World in Birmingham. Not only do you get to see how the chocolate is made, but they actually send you home with enough samples to cure even the hardiest chocoholic addiction. Make sure you have an adorable young child in tow who spends the entire tour crying and they’ll throw even more at you! {My daughter was not a happy bunny that day, despite our best efforts to cheer her up, and they pretty much said, “Here! Take ALL the samples!”}

One of the best things about living in the U.K. was afternoon tea, complete with an array of pastries and cakes. It was a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon and drinking my cuppa is something I do, even now. Fortunately, I can get my favorite brand, Tetley, here where I live…and if my local supermarket stops selling it, for whatever reason, there’s still Amazon. During the cooler months, I usually have 2 or 3 cuppas daily and, if I’m “full of cold” {another Britishism}, I will do “hot drinks therapy” which generally lessens the duration. If I feel like I’m coming down with something, hot drinks therapy will sometimes stop a cold from becoming “full-blown”. I can honestly say that a cup of tea really does make things better.

Bus Rides

I lived in a very nice area of Leeds. The city centre was about 20 minutes away by bus and in the other direction, I could see the countryside and walk through the fields via public footpaths, if I was so inclined. Public transportation was awesome, eliminating the need for a car. The stops were a 2-minute walk from our house and with an unlimited weekly pass, I could get anywhere in the county without hassle. I made a lot of friends with people {and even some of the drivers} I saw on my regular bus rides into the city centre. Public transportation is somewhat of a social event over there because there’s just enough time to have a catch up on the latest news and arrange for a future coffee chat at the local café. As someone who used to “bus” to work in New Orleans, I found nothing sociable about it back then, but my time in Britain changed my attitude about public transport. I still keep in touch with people I met on my bus rides. Who knew it was a place to meet people?

As mentioned before, it took a while to use British terms and pronunciations. “Pants” means different things ~ to Brits, underwear and to Americans, trousers. Some pronunciations defy the rules of phonetics, if you ask me ~ for example, Keighley. To the average person, it looks like “kee-lee”, right? Nope! It’s pronounced “Keeth-Lee” because, apparently, sometimes you can stick the “th” sound in unexpectedly. And Isleworth should be “eye-uhl-worth”. Wrong again! It’s “eye-zuhl-worth”. These are just a couple from a long list of towns with strange pronunciations. If you click on that list, prepare to be amused. The funniest one is Woolfardisworthy, which seems pretty phonetically straightforward but is really pronounced “Woolsery“. Sounds like someone decided it would be “fun” to add some random letters to, you know, confuse young children learning how to spell their towns early in Primary school. In all seriousness, I still speak “Brit” even now. I like their pronunciation of “garage” because the accent is on the first syllable, as in “GAH-ridge”, instead of “ger-RAHGE”. I still sometimes say “crisps” instead of “chips”, “chips” instead of “fries”, “bag” instead of “purse”, “wardrobe” instead of “closet”, “boot” instead of “trunk”, “petrol” instead of “gas” and many others I can’t think of at the moment.

Shakespeare's Birthplace Postcard Image

A postcard image of Shakespeare’s Birthplace

During my time there, I had the opportunity to see some really lovely places, my favorites being coastal towns like Whitby, Scarborough, Blackpool, Bridlington, and Ayr {in Scotland}. These towns have arcades and piers with benches ~ perfect for sitting and eating fish ‘n’ chips. We would walk tirelessly up and down the beach front, enjoying the brisk{!} air and the sights. On one particular visit to Blackpool, we won several stuffed animals at the arcades and I remember how “fun” it was to lug them all home on the train back to Leeds. We made one particularly memorable trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s birthplace and Haworth, made famous by the Brontë sisters. Harrogate was another place we visited frequently, for a stroll through the lovely park, Valley Gardens, and pedestrianized city centre.

Bourton-on-the-Water image

Beautiful Bourton-on-the-Water

One of my favorite places of all is Bourton-on-the-Water, considered “Venice of the Cotswolds”. It’s a pretty little village that attracts many tourists with its series of bridges crossing the River Windrush, model village, Birdland Park and Gardens, and Dragonfly Maze. Pictures don’t do it justice; there’s so much to look at. If I ever decided to go back to England, I’d probably live there. Or Ilkley. I really loved Ilkley {are some of you singing On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at?}. Sadly, there were many places I didn’t get to see {long story}; perhaps one day I’ll return with a bucket list in hand. I’d really like to see Stonehenge and visit some friends who live on the South Coast, in Eastbourne and Torquay. On a sadder note, I read recently that they were tearing the Fawlty Towers hotel down. As far as I’m concerned, that should be considered a historical monument because of the mere fact that some of the funniest moments in the history of British television were filmed there. Man-well! Que? {giggles}

British TV

Television shows were a bit…shall we say…different after 9:00 pm. That was the time when most children were expected to be in bed so that the adults could see the “real interesting” shows “after the watershed”. I remember raising a brow the first time I’d ever seen naturist documentaries without the usual “blotting out” I was used to otherwise. Anything was fair game after the watershed, cussing and all. British shows I watched: Playing the Field, Down To Earth, The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, Cold Feet, As Time Goes By, Harry Enfield, The Fast Show, The Royle Family, The IT Crowd, Goodness Gracious Me, Smack the Pony. There are probably others I’m forgetting. I suppose I should mention that I still watch Coronation Street {available on Hulu, believe it or not}, Masterchef UK {all versions, including Celebrity and Professionals}, and The Apprentice UK even now. I’m a huge fan of Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson, too. And I would now like to apologize to Steve for the Corrie reference. {grin}

On a personal level, I experienced a lot in my 16 years living in the U.K. When Diana, Princess of Wales, tragically passed away in 1997, I cried with the British people. When 9/11 happened, I felt truly supported by those around me…and it meant a lot to me. When the Queen visited Leeds for one of her Jubilee celebrations in the early 2000’s my son stood only yards away from her, as his class was chosen to represent his school at the greeting ceremony in Leeds Millennium Square. When the London bombings happened in 2005, I felt a sense of uneasiness seeing policemen patrolling the train stations with semi-automatic rifles. When I needed help due to my dangerous home life, my friends and neighbors rallied around me, making sure I felt safer because they knew I was isolated from my family.

My last 7 years in the U.K weren’t what I envisioned, but with the help of a handful of professionals and my trusted friends, I survived and emerged from a bad situation far more empowered than I’d ever been in my life. I left the country a different person than the one I was when I arrived. I watched my children grow up in a completely different environment than the one I did and it was extremely rewarding to watch them evolve into the wonderful people they’ve become. I learned a lot about the differences in American and British culture/mannerisms/language and that speaking the same language does not necessarily mean that we will automatically understand each other. I learned how to survive in a foreign country, even when I had no clue what I was doing.

Despite everything, I have good memories of my life in the U.K. In the 3 years that have passed since I came back home, I’ve come to realize how important it is that I resist the urge to let the negative experiences define the experience of living there. It wasn’t easy at first, but I had to allow the “residuals” to wear off so that I could heal and focus on what I gained as a result:

An American-born son who successfully made his way through the British education system, despite the challenges he faced; a British-born daughter who’s beautiful, talented and strong enough to survive things that no child should ever have to experience; many great friends I would never have found, had I not moved to the U.K., and they’re my friends to this day; the experience of living abroad, completely immersed in a culture I admired so much growing up; the opportunity to see the awesome history, rich architecture, beauty of the countryside, and true nature of the British people; experiences that gave me strength, courage, patience, empowerment.

When I left America, I was newly divorced with a 3-year-old son and bankrupt, due to circumstances beyond my control. When I returned to America 16 years later, I was indeed a very wealthy woman.

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In closing, I want to say that I find it incredibly heart-warming that we can find people online that inspire us, despite having never met. The courses Blogging 101/201 and Writing 101, offered by WordPress, are truly special because they teach bloggers how to best utilize the features offered through their site, but they do it in a way that brings a community of bloggers together. I feel truly blessed by the friends I’ve made through these courses; Steve has been one of my most avid supporters and, for that, I am grateful. It’s our “ex-Pat” bond and mutual love of writing that has helped us to click so well. So, Steve, I humbly thank you for the wonderful opportunity to write a guest post. I’ve truly enjoyed the experience.

Editor’s Note

Carol Moulin writes about many interesting, soulful and uplifting matters in her blog at Writeful Mind. As Carol says in her blog, “[A]ssembling a jumble of ideas into meaningful articles” is the essence of her writing. Carol has certainly “moved” me on more than one occasion when I have read her posts. I have been delighted to support her on Twitter and elsewhere.

I “met” Carol through Blogging 201, a WordPress organized course, and have become firm friends since. I sincerely hope that, one day, we meet in person. Although a native of “Nawlins”, Carol is a real Anglophile despite some of the things she experienced during her time in Britain. However, as she rightly points out in this article, she has overcome the negativities of that period of her life to become the person she is now.

It is so typical of her that she “humbly” thanks me to write a guest post. Carol, It is I who thank you for submitting such a wonderful article for publication here. And, I forgive you for the “Corrie” remarks 🙂

More about Carol

Anglophile

I am a single mother of 2 awesome kiddos, one is 22 and the other’s 2 years away from turning 18. I have mixed feelings about my role as a mum changing. On one hand, I feel sad because it means having to step into the background and be more of a “quiet supporter”; it’s quite a change from navigating the challenges that life with a teenaged girl brings. On the other, I look forward to seeing what life brings for all of us.

I’m a native New Orleanian who has spent many years away from home. Since my return {in Summer 2012} from 16 years of living in the U.K., adjusting to life back home has been interesting. When I’m not trying to avoid melting into a puddle from the extreme heat, I’m otherwise busy resisting the constant culinary temptations this city has to offer. I’ve just about lost the “slight” British accent I had, but it does still show up at times.

Read more about Carol at Writeful Mind.

Carol’s post first appeared here on December 9, 2015.

 

5 Comments

  1. Corinne a Shields

    December 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    A great post, Carol, and lovely to meet Steve too. I met Carol through Blogging 101 too, but in a slightly different context. One of the 101 Assignments is to take part in a blogging event. I had no idea there were blogging events! When I checked them out though I came across Carol’s “Feel-Good Friday” and now I contribute regularly. Like Carol I found 101 really useful both for learning the nuts and bolts of blogging and for meeting some lovely bloggers. I shall do 201 sometime soon.

    As a native Britisher I thank you for your lovely comments about the UK. Despite its faults it is a great place to live and I quite understand why so many people want to come here. The freedoms that we enjoy were hard won and to be protected at all costs. Programmes like Corrie are not to be sniffed at. In a strange way they do a great job at creating common bonds, a bit like the weather. I was in a Bourton myself just recently. November may not be the best time to visit but I still welled up to see what beautiful places the UK has to offer and how many people from all over the world so obviously appreciate it. Hugs xx

  2. I enjoyed the story greatly as a lover of England.

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