Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Speaking English

This is Mini at our market. The first time we went to the shops we took the bus. The trolley (grocery cart) was tiny and I wondered how anyone could fit all their purchases in it. We loaded up flour and sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon...all the things we needed to stock an empty kitchen, and ended up filling two carts.

When we got to the check out counter, the woman asked if I'd brought boxes. I didn't understand what she meant. It turned out we were supposed to bring our own boxes or carriers to take the groceries home. She rummaged around in the back and found us a few.

Self service had not arrived in our home town, and I was surprised to realize I needed to unload the trolley, and then bag the items myself. At the end of the process I expected the grocer to help me out to the car. Another surprise: no help, and....no car!! How was I supposed to get all this home? I forgot I had taken the bus! We dragged our boxes several blocks before we ditched them behind some bushes, walked the rest of the way to fetch my strong young sons and went back to carry it all home. A little culture lesson.

Our favorite stop of the day was at the bakery. We bought a cute round loaf of bread which had a special name that I can't remember. A hob? Or was that the stove? (My Yorkshire is failing me.) I do remember that the ends of the loaf were called the doorstops. We bought custard tarts everyday as well.

On the way home from school we stopped at the sweet shop for a lollie. That's a Popsicle. Most of the candy was in big jars, but we became addicted to Crunchies, Flakes, Smarties and Curly Wurlies. We crossed the street and visited another shop to buy our newspaper. Everyone knew everyone and it was fun to be recognized as the American family.

The green grocer had the fruits and veg, and the butcher shop next door sold the meat. There was often a pig's head hanging in the window, and intestines and brains were highlighted in the displays. I wasn't very adventurous but some of the kids got hooked on steak and kidney pies.

Minced beef (hamburger) was our staple. Dee invented a way to barbecue. He found a wheel barrow in the back garden, which he balanced with a brick, and used the rack of the oven for a grill.

For 50p (about 80¢) the kids feasted on chips and scraps at the chippie shop. The hot, bubbling oil that fried the fish and chips (fries) had bits of batter floating in it. Those are the scraps. They were skimmed off and put in a paper cone along with a few chips, and that was lunch! Douse it all in vinegar and you automatically start speaking with a British accent.

It usually happened during our family prayer. Squeak! Plop! A quick amen, and all nine chairs were shoved back or tipped over as the family ran to the door to see what was in the mail. The post dropped through the slot and landed on the tile floor about 8:am, during breakfast. It was the highlight of every morning. Letters kept us going. I had our friends and neighbors save the letters we wrote and they are treasures. "I like you. Do you still like me? Do you remember me? I need letters!"

I met a woman just before we left and we became pen pals for the whole year I was gone. There was a high profile murder mystery going on at home, and she sent newspaper clippings every day. It was like a magazine serial in chapters. We didn't have much in common in real life, but she was such a support to me with her regular letter packages.

The pillar box across the street from our house became our friend. After all, it held all the love and new memories we were sending across the pond to our dear ones.

We were without a washer and dryer. At that time in York there were no laundromats, so every couple of days Dee dropped off two giant clothes hampers at a laundry service. At night he would pick them up again, and lug them into the house. I sat at the top of the first flight of stairs with all our clothes, while the kids perched on the stairs below. I tossed everybody their belongings, as I thought about the intimacy of strangers sorting through my underwear on a regular basis. Community washers leave a lot to be desired, and by the time we were going home there was a distinct dinginess to everything we owned. Luckily we hadn't brought much, so we didn't feel bad chucking it all when we left.

Different soon became routine. We rented a piano for $10 a month, so there were lessons and practicing. Josh found a gym to work out in, and finished his Eagle project. Walking and taking the bus or the train was convenient transport and I got comfortable with the kids venturing around town on their own. There were church discos (dances), and school carnivals, and new friends. Heidi was 7, and was picked up for a play date in a taxi by her friend and her mother. Apple cider was alcoholic and when tea was offered, it meant dinner. Pudding could be cake, pie or a fruit and cheese plate, but rarely pudding. A jumper is a sweater, and plimsolls and trainers are shoes for games (gym class.) We were loving every word of it! When ta (thanks), brilliant (awesome) and soz (sorry) became part of our vocabulary we felt we had truly become Yorkies.

(To be concluded...)


gramakas said...

Just goes to show that what is "normal" can be so "unique" at the same time. I'm loving all the memories... what a great experience!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I love to hear all about what you learned in Dingland!

kenju said...

I love reading about all your experiences there. I absolutely love the idea of using a wheel barrow for a grill! It's brilliant....LOL!

gab said...

I could go for a wheelburger and a Flake right now!

Betty said...

I'm enjoying your experiences in York. Can't wait for the next chapter!

Kay Dennison said...

Goes to Shaw was right when he said the Americans and British are two peoples separated by a common language!

I love these posts Marty!!!! What an adventure you all had!

Sandra Ferguson said...

Great story -- and you lived it.

Thanks for sharing your life with us.

I love the English words, but even more the simple memories of how to do English wash or where to buy the veggies.