Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Must have been the way I was queuing patiently on my own that gave it away

Even before we left for the US and what has turned into 6+ years of living overseas, I'd never considered myself particularly English. Maybe it's because I'm not; with Welsh roots from Mum and English ones from Dad, but growing up in a place that (proudly) considers itself neither one nor the other, at most I'm British.

Let me clarify; obviously, for census purposes and all that good stuff, I'm British. But I've never really been into wandering around Benidorm with knotted hanky demanding 10 pints of lager and a full English. Nor am I a Sebastian Flyte type, much as I wished I could be during my pretentious phase in my early twenties (and I mean my really pretentious phase, not the half-arsed version I drag out sometimes these days).

And yeah, obviously what's wrong with those comparisons is, as much as anything else, that I'm not male, I suppose - but the only female examples of insta-Brit I could think of were the Queen (for Christ's sake) and, I dunno, the Jade Goody, and they're even less edifying.

When we were in France in June, we spent a morning in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere. We weren't in the overrun-by-the-English part of the country and had, in fact, seen no other foreigners all week - probably as much accident as design, but still.

We were walking back to the car after a great lunch of galettes and idle chat whilst the kids raced around the walled garden knocking each other over. On our way back, I paused to wait for Dave and Jonah, and crossed paths with two blokes, each with a pushchair and a small child waiting for their wives and slightly bigger children. Just like me, really. I smiled in acknowledgement of our mutual circumstances and the guy closer to me nodded and said, by way of greeting, "hiya".

After several years now in varying English-speaking countries, getting used to the vagaries of the English language as spoken by people who also claim it as their mother tongue, "hiya" jumped out at me as quintessentially English. It's halfway colloquial, it pretty much sets the parameters of a demographic, and it wouldn't be used by a non-British person, let alone a non-English speaker. So the assumption had been that I, too, was British.

Which is true, of course. But what interests me (since clearly life is all about me) is that, without speaking (and "revealing" my accent), wearing no clothes purchased in Britain, and in a country that isn't Britain, I'm still somehow identifiably English. I'm sure there's a blindingly obvious reason for this, and it's not like I think I've somehow become American or Irish (or, indeed, German or Austrian, if we want to take all my non-British homes into account). In a way, I find it pretty comforting. A true case of "you can take the girl out of the country...".

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat my Findus crispy pancakes in front of Fawlty Towers repeats....


Simon said...

I am moments away from digging up the photo of dave drunk as a skunk dancing around West Blockhouse draped in the Union Flag.

Sarah said...

whole moments?! Your self-control is impressive, sir.

FranklyDave said...

We all know you're an expert with photoshot heps. Any photo of me draped in a flag must be fake.

whobanana said...

"It's the hair." according to a very polite man sitting next to me on a BA flight.

"Hey."drawls the American

Sarah said...

seems like a reason for shaven heads - but then I'd just look like a loon, regardless of nationality. "hey" always used to trip me up when we were first in Seattle because the English use it almost as a telling-off. I was forever turning round guiltily and thinking "what?? what have I done now?!"