Travel Writing Awards Entry
Often these days I find myself trying to spell words that can’t easily be spelled, like “owt”, or “nowt”. I’ve been living in Queensland for six months, trying to explain to people that I am not a pom, I am from Yorkshire, (and… yes! before you ask, there is a difference. Thank you very much).
My conscious effort to put words back into sentences when I speak and pronounce my T’s is becoming more of an unconscious effort these days, some would even believe that English was indeed my first language.
But from time to time I get into a comfort zone, (or drunk) and incoherently chatter gibberish like: “Appen we should go down’t’ chippy for some scran, I feel like a butty.” Most of my unfortunate antipodean friends just look at me bewildered, not sure weather they are supposed to be amused, offended, or just agree.
In fact, I’m fairly sure that the only reason I still have a job is because I supply hours of fun for my colleagues just in day-to-day speech. Simply asking someone to “put wood in’th ole” will often result in me having to repeat my self several times, first for clarification, then just for hilarity, followed by a Yorkshire lesson for the whole office and me trying work out an appropriate spelling for the word “ole”.
I moved to Australia with my partner, who is from north Queensland . We had been living in London together for two years and he had managed to convince me that the lifestyle here was a lot more comfortable. I felt like I needed a break from the big smog, so with only one year left before graduation I decided to take a second gap year.
I persuaded myself that It would be a great opportunity to gain some experience in the media for my journalism degree. So we decided to live in Brisbane the capital of Queensland, third largest city in Australia, an obvious choice full of opportunities, and here my partner would not be too far from home, only 830 miles, (well not far in Australian terms).
Surly Brisbane ’s cosmopolitan, multicultural population would take to my regional accent just fine, I didn’t imagine it would be much of an issue. But when I did some work on a radio station not long ago, I got to the studio only to be told by the DJ that I would read the news, then my co-worker would read it again in English.
I sometimes have trouble trying to convince people here that I am in fact from England . When I meet someone for the first time the conversation often goes something like this:
“Y’alright?… How are ya?”
“Oh I’m well thank you, are you Scottish?”
“No I’m not”
“Oh so you must be Irish then?”
“Don’t tell me that you are Welsh?”
“I’m actually from Yorkshire, which is in England ”
“I can’t believe it you don’t sound English at all”
This sort of conversation has however been the foundation to many magnificent friendships.
Since I have lived here I would have been called Scottish, Irish, Welsh, American, South African and Kiwi, more than I have English. I think part of the problem is that a lot of Australians think that there are only two accents in England ; The Queen’s English, and cockney.
This common misunderstanding might have something to do with the lack of regional accents in Australia . There doesn’t seem to be much distinction between regions in terms of speech here. The only obvious differences that I am aware of are the differences between city and country accents… broad, and not so broad.
I am still yet to hear someone here say, “Oh listen to Bruce, he sounds like he comes from Sydney , don’t they speak funny down there?”, or whatever the case me maybe.
It’s not that Australians don’t like British regional accents, (in fact many seem to be enthralled by them), It’s just that they don’t understand flippin bit of what I say.
Though a lot of what I say here leaves people fliumoxed, I’m still not ready to pack it in, I’ll carry on being misunderstood, it’s near as makes n’matta.