This post is not of any historical significance but is a light-hearted look at the life-changing experience of leaving home at eighteen and crossing the border to live in England.
I left Wales to live in England was when I was eighteen and went to university. We had holidayed in England many times as I was growing up but that was mainly in seaside places like Newquay, Paignton, Bournemouth and Whitby. After growing up in such a remote area I was desperate to experience life in a city. Nottingham seemed to me like a big city but not as huge and scary-sounding as London. So that’s where I went. I also fondly imagined that it would have readily accessible green forested areas should I find that I missed the countryside. I had been too influenced by the tales of Robin Hood!
It was so exciting to have big shops (M and S, C & A, Boots, Smiths etc.) on hand, to have a regular and frequent bus service and to see Indian and Chinese restaurants and to know of chip shops which stayed open really late. As a student on a grant I didn’t do a lot of shopping or eating in restaurants but just living in a city so full of life and activity was amazing to a country bumpkin like me. Oh, the novelty of double-decker buses with conductors, a choice of cinemas and the ease of travelling to other cities by train some weekends to visit school friends in different universities like Sheffield and London.
Before I’d left Wales, I and my friends had thought we were all quite cool and trendy. After all, we read Honey magazine and watched Top of the Pops! I soon realised how different the lives of those growing up in or near cities had been for them. Some of the new friends I made had actually shopped in Biba and Carnaby Street and had seen big bands (groups we called them then) like The Stones, The Kinks and Manfred Mann in concert.
I was puzzled in my first term by students commenting on my accent. What were they talking about? I didn’t have an accent, they did! If I became animated in conversation I would talk very fast (South Walean people do talk fast!) and people would laugh at me and say they didn’t understand what I was saying which embarrassed me, made me slow down and made me nearly lose all my accent. People with an ear for accents can still identify me as Welsh even though I’ve lived in England for many decades. And my accent comes back when I’m in Wales or with my Welsh relatives and friends – which makes me happy.
Some of the other differences between me and all the other students were unexpected. When I referred to casual canvas shoes as daps, nobody knew what I was talking about. As we approached the first mid-term I asked a group of my friends whether they were going home for Potato Week and was met with blank looks followed by laughter. We had always referred to the week we had off school in October as Potato Week. I had never known it as anything else. This is because of Pembrokeshire in South Wales being a big potato growing county. Traditionally, schools all over South and mid-Wales closed for a week mid term so that whole families could help out with the potato picking. But at that time I thought everyone in the whole of Britain had Potato Week in October.
Some of the expressions English people use mystified me when I came across them. I still remember the time someone was relating a tale which finished with them saying ‘I really had egg on my face!’ and I asked how had they got egg on their face.
Gordon Bennett!! is an exclamation used by the English which is a way of exclaiming without blaspheming. We all know others – Crikey, Jeepers, etc. It was a new one to me. I did, however, know someone back home called Gordon Bennett who had a farm about half a mile from us. Once, when one of my fellow students said Gordon Bennett! when something had gone wrong I had no idea what they meant. I said ‘We’ve got a neighbour called Gordon Bennett.’ much to the amusement of the group.
There was a pub near the university called The Rose and Crown which was popular with students. I hadn’t previously known any pubs called the Rose and Crown but had often come across the name in novels I’d read or on TV programmes. This bit is really, really stupid. For some reason, I thought The Rose and Crown was English people’s way of saying the local. A sort of nickname for your regular pub. One evening, e few students I’d got to know said “We’re going down the Rose and Crown this evening, do you want to come?” I was only just getting my bearings in my new area and there were a few pubs near the campus so I said “Which one? What’s it called?” I could really cringe now thinking of that!
The Rose and Crown, Derby Road, Nottingham.
As always, images obtained from the Internet. Credit to whoever is deserving of it. I make every effort to avoid infringing copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me directly and I will remove it.