Yesterday my wife Karen and me took an early evening saunter into Leeds city centre. Our mission, should we choose to accept it (which we did), a cheeky little drink accompanied with an even more brazen meal.
Our late afternoon eatery of choice the Harvey Nichols Brassiere, where we sampled a touch of the elegance in association with fine cuisine. Culinary fare of such high quality that, after eating her last mouthful of dessert, my wife felt moved to belch raucously and cacophonously opine “Bloody hell, that was sodding fantastic scran!”
Under the disapproving gaze of fellow diners, my wee Birtley lass then yelled “Better oot than in!” A move that clearly unsettled the excellent Brassiere staff who at that point were no doubt seeking a shepherd’s staff with which to hook us out of the place.
Of course, Karen didn’t show herself up in that fashion. Her parents brought her up to behave with much more decorum than to exaggeratedly belch in a restaurant of that high quality….. Or, indeed an eatery of any preeminence.
Impeccable behaviour and adherence to etiquette hugely important during her upbringing in County Durham. Her dad, a man of the cloth***, a strict disciplinarian who looked unfavourably at anything even hinting at his daughter’s, or their suitors, improper conduct.
*** – When I allude to Karen’s dad being a man of the cloth I’m not referring to him being a clergyman. I mean he spent forty years taking inside leg measurements for a Birtley tailor name Hugroves Tutt.
To create a mythical persona of family self-importance, as a child my wife attended elocution lessons by her parents. Tutelage undertaken by a guy who lived close to my home on Low Fell, Gateshead…… Although, I found that out retrospectively as I didn’t know my future spouse at that point.
The teacher, Eddie Troubadour, gaining her family’s admiration as a linquist after teaching Karen’s mum how to be negative in French; along with guiding her old man through the more difficult nuances of Frontier Gibberish.
When I think of my wife’s childhood elocution lessons it brings to mind the movie My Fair Lady. A film in which professor of phonetics Henry Higgins teaches cockney gutter snipe Eliza Doolittle to converse in ‘proper English’. His eventual breakthrough occurring during her incessant repeating of the phrase ‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’. Higgins tried and tested methods again bearing fruit at improving a clients diction, with their subsequent rise in social standing.
Being a hypocrite and an incorrigible tease, I occasionally mischievously rib Karen about her elocution teacher’s minimal inroads into guiding her towards conversing in the Queen’s English. Quipping that perhaps Eddie Troubadour should’ve used Henry Higgins methods as opposed to the baffling adage of ‘The dirtley in Birtley falls mainly on wor shirtley’……. No she didn’t laugh either!
As I alluded to above, I’m a hypocrite for undertaking this gentle mocking of my missus. After all, my accent has spent half a century flipping between that of my roots in West Yorkshire and the that of the Tyneside area where I was raised. Culminating, in me now possessing a hybrid dialect that clouds my identity, contributing to a longtime feeling of being bereft of tribe.
At least Karen knows where her identity sits. Although for some reason she does seem reticent to relay her hometown is Birtley, preferring instead to tell people she’s from Durham….. Bizarrely, even her dad!