You say To-may-toe, I say…to-may-toe…

Accents are an obvious thing to expect abroad.  You think the English will sound like Downton Abbey, you assume it to be a fact.  And, in some cases, it is.  But there are some random words that you’d expect to be totally different that are actually the same, or just downright strange.  Firstly I became aware of the tones in which the English speak.  This is kind of hard to share over a blog, but it really is different.  You can “put on” an English accent, but if you don’t get those pitches right, you won’t sound “British.”  They prolong certain sounds, and move their pitches much more than Americans do.  I can’t think more on how to explain it…so I’m going to suggest the next time you watch a British show, really listen for those fluctuation.  Once you notice, there’s no going back.  But of course the next thing you notice is words.

They use different vocabulary for basically everything.  Trying to have a basic conversation with a middle school child can be difficult because they don’t know what you mean by “d’ya” or “how’re’ya doin’.” You try and find Tylenol, but they don’t sell it in the UK, it’s called something TOTALLY different, but they still sell Ibuprofen.  I take Zyrtec allergy medicine back home, but all I could find was Zirtek.  But then…food even gets a little weird.  Take for example the produce stand that comes to Bath every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. (This is not it pictured above. The one above is from the Saturday market at Sainsbury’s.)  They’ll say Tomato as I do, To-may-toe, but they say Potato as Po-tah-toe.  Why? They’re like, basically the same word. They don’t seem keen on the ‘mah’ sound that you might expect someone English to say in Tomato.  And then there’s Bananas…. They’re a whole ‘nother bowl of fruit.

Now this pronunciation is just weird.  Think first, how you say Banana.  Now think, I say Banana as Bah-nan-ah.  You’d expect an English person to say Bah-nah-nah…however, that is not quite right.  They do, in fact, pronounce it as Bah-nah-ner.  Yep. With a “ner” at the end.  “Bananers for sale! Bowl for a pound!”  That’s what I hear on Wednesdays.  But it’s not only Banana that suffers this strange oratory fate.  It’s really any word that ends in an A.  The name Emma is usually said Emmer.  Idea becomes Idear.  Oddly enough, my name has yet to suffer this peculiarity.  I still remain Nyssa, though I feel it’s a matter of time before I become Nysser…that will be a sad day.  It just baffles me.  Why?  There’s no R in Banana!

Television

The UK! Land of Dr Who, Vicar of Dibley, Time Team, and strange talking bobble-head dogs!  Yea…

All television is, in some sense, mindless.  It’s nice to sit down with some reading and have the discovery of Richard III’s body on in the background. Or to have a wonderfully drab documentary that tells you all the dirty secrets of an old well-to-do family.  Or maybe Time Team is uncovering what they thought to be a Roman villa, but it’s really a Roman village!  But then there’s that other part of the television.  The part you forget about, like, actors are real people.  When they’re not in a movie or a show, they’re in commercials.  And not only are they in commercials, they’re in really annoying commercials that come on in high rotation.  It’s like… you think of an actor, that you’re pretty sure you couldn’t not like, and then do something horrible to them, and you begin to wonder.  But, everyone has to make a living! It doesn’t mean I don’t dread this commercial (and it’s two other variants) coming on every break during my quaint little documentary!

Some (few but far between) are as entertaining as surprising to see someone you recognize!  It’s nice to get a reprieve from the shocking anti-smoking and don’t text-and-drive commercials that would not pass on American television.  While I do agree with the messages, and think it probably is more effective to be that blunt, I’d much rather dwell on such commercials as this one.

But familiar faces pop up in other places as well.  Like, hosts of fun shows like Top Gear.  Like Hammond.  Who could dislike him?  Well, I still don’t, but I can never see him in the same light after he hosted the most ridiculous Ninja-Warrior-esque game show, Total Whipeout…I think.  I don’t know where the British come up with this stuff.  Honest.  I can’t even remember who won, or what they get for winning.  All I know is, everyone failed every level (except that one where they jump from little pillars onto the big spinning one, but even then it was whoever five get there first).  The point was, whoever failed the fastest and go to the end…right?  Or were they suppose to succeed in their endeavors?

And then there’s the real television shows, the dramas.  The series were you follow your favorite actor as they take on the role of a damaged, young detective in a small town.  I’m waiting for the cinematography to get a little less melodramatic, but by the end I was into it.  Broadchurch isn’t normally something I’d tune into, but with David Tennant as the lead and Arthur Darvill as the village vicar, how could I not at least give it a try?  The plot is a child is found dead on the beach in a small, quiet village.  No one knows why.  A troubled detective, new to the area, is put on the case with a local woman (who was expecting to get his job) as his partner.  Despite the humorous first 60 seconds, the mood was dark very quickly.  Tennant plays the scruffy cop well, but Arthur Darvill was only introduced fleetingly in the first episode.  We’ll see how the next one continues next Monday at 9pm on ITV.  Too bad I’ll be in Oxford!  I wonder if they’ll have a telly?

Parks, Gardens, and Byways

48. Stourhead

If there’s one thing people tend to think of when thinking of England, it’s probably the English Garden. Undoubtedly, England is full of gardens.  It may be a secret little alcove in the basement of a city flat, or it might be a vast garden over acres of land like something in a movie, but I guarantee there’s more gardens than you think should be able to fit. Pictured above is one such garden I visited, Stourhead. Stourhead is a wonderful and vast garden with an enormous lake in the center, and a tiny village at the end. Owned now by the National Trust, it was owned and built by a banking family. Much of the garden is Grecian with highlights such as the Temple of Apollo (featured in Pride and Prejudice, the first proposal from Darcy), and the Grottoes featuring statues of nymphs and Neptune. Going to such a vast garden as this makes me wonder. Did the family often walk the whole garden on fair days? It took us nearly an hour and a half to make our way through the whole garden. If I had owned it, I think I’d have done nothing else but walk the grounds, have romantic rendezvous in the dark grottoes, hide from storms in the witch’s cottage, and admire the hills from the lonely island in the lake.

London 196

How different then, you think, is London? The capital of the nation. Well, it is completely different, actually. While the Queen still has her private garden hidden from the public eye, you’d think London didn’t have much room for gardens. London blurs the line of what we would call Gardens and what we’d call Parks. Kensington Gardens was a nice reprieve from the GO.EVERYWHERE.NOW.AS.FAST.AS.YOU.CAN of London. Full of surprisingly well-trained dogs, and a serious lack of plants, it seemed more like a vast park. Kensington Gardens is separated from Hyde Park by a small river and features the infamous Peter Pan statue. While a change from the city, I think this park is much nicer for sitting and picnicking than strolling through on a cold, snowy day.

Bath Abbey Cemetary 3

What fascinates me about England most, I think, isn’t how they incorporate greenery into their busy cities, but instead how they keep history and scenery open to everyone, even through private estates. They do this through a thing called Byways. They are basically footpaths honored by law for respectful, public use. Bath has a couple of these nearby, one of which includes the Bath Abbey Cemetery on its route. Positively the oldest cemetery I have personally been in, I found it to be eerie and peaceful. We entered through the gate and found our way along the soft ground to the center walkway. On either side were headstones nearly as tall as I am, some taller. A small chapel sat center at the end of the cemetery. It was interesting to see how ivy was beginning to take over some stones, while some stones were practically new (1980s). But up in the corner, if you walked to the side of the chapel, there was a small paper map in a plastic covering. The map said that this was part of a Byway, and people were permitted to take the path (through the cemetery and the small woods to the side) up to the Prior Park Estate. In essence, England, I feel, is set up in a way that almost the entirety of the country could be visited on foot.

We took a school trip to a piece of the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is kind of like a mountain chain…or as close as England really gets to mountains. But it’s a series of Byways that stretch together and lead from Bath across a comparatively vast region. We walked from an old folly tower, through kissing gates, and across the grazing fields of sheep. There weren’t any sheep in our fields that day, but we saw plenty in the next field over. These paths are not for the unfit, though. Hiking is one thing, hiking through English mud is another. Thankfully, on the Cotswolds day it was so cold the ground was frozen (take your blessing where you can), though I still almost fell once!

 Skywalk 15

Now that I’ve had a taste for adventure, I decided to seek it out myself. I’d heard of something called the Bath Skywalk that is a large circle Byway path that walks in the hills around bath, up to the folly castle, and offers amazing views of the city below. (That pointy spire is right next to my house!) So I set out on Friday up Widcome Hill, yes, UP Widcome Hill, in the curiosity of what was uphill from my house. I thought the hill could only go on for so long…I’m just still unsure of how long that so long is. I have yet to reach the top of Widcome Hill, but that’s another story. A very good ways up the hill, I ran into a kissing gate. I paused, and noticed it had one of those little papers, and on the other side, was a very big, colorful, official map. So I went in. I found myself in a fair field with clear marks of trekking. I took pictures of the map and set out to walk the Skywalk! And got promptly lost in the woods.

After I lost the path in the woods, I started thinking… For being a Skywalk I wasn’t seeing much of the Bath city through the trees. So I opted to turn back, before I lost my converse in the natural spring swamp, and found my way back to my field. After admiring Bath for a time at the top of the field, I studied the map again for quite some time. The map, I decided, was not helpful in the least, but it seemed like the path went along Widcome Hill, not away from it, so I set out downhill, through another kissing gate, and eventually through a farm. By the end, I found myself lost somewhere near the center of the City of Bath. It was quite an adventure, and once I figured myself out, I bought myself a nice bacon and leek pastie from a local shop for my walk home. Next time, I will come prepared for a full 7 mile hike and attempt to do the whole Skywalk, and of course, find the folly castle.