Leaving Home.

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.

Kardomah Cafe, corner of Clumber Street and Lincoln Street, Nottingham,  c1960s. | Nottingham, Nottingham city, Street
There were TWO Kardomah Cafes in Nottingham when I lived there. I can still remember the smell of roasting coffee as you walked in.

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.

May be an image of 2 people
Potato pickers in Pembrokeshire

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!

Rose & Crown Pub, Derby Road, Nottingham (C) Roy Hughes :: Geograph Britain  and Ireland | Nottingham pubs, Nottingham, Old pub

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.

11 thoughts on “Leaving Home.

  1. I never got to do the Uni thing. My Dad died when I was eleven and from that moment my Mum told me I would be leaving school at 16 and going to work as we needed the income.
    I was interested in your comments about language differences. I grew up in London, and since moving to Hereford 15 years ago I have had to come to terms with the fact that, up here, ‘just now’ refers to a time in the future, whereas where I come from it means a time in the recent past. My wife’s family are from Swansea, and she still uses the Welsh thing of putting ‘alright?’ at the end of a sentence. For a Londoner, that comes across as somehow aggressive, although I’m sure it’s not meant like that.
    My first wife had relatives from Nottingham, and we were very surprised on a visit to hear them say the tea was ‘mashed’. Down south, the only thing we mash are spuds!
    As for the Rose and Crown incident, it could have been even more confusing if you had been mixing with a crowd who had a smattering of cockney rhyming slang. Imagine being asked if you were coming down the rubber for a tumble (rub-a-dub= pub, tumble down the sink=drink, though more recently cufflink is used).
    Ah, the joys of diversity!

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    • How sad, losing your Dad at eleven. Thanks for the very interesting response! I’d forgotten that they mash tea in Nottingham, which sounds very odd when you’re not used to it. Here in Yorkshire, where I live now, they don’t wash the dishes, they wash the pots. A broken limb isn’t put in plaster or a cast, it’s put in a pot. Also, a bit like the ‘just now’ thing, people here always say ‘see you later’ on parting even if you’re unlikely to see them again for some time. I was always used to ‘see you later’ meaning later on in the same day. Loved the rhyming slang example! Many thanks for sharing.

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  2. I enjoyed your memories of leaving home at eighteen a great deal! We have similar regional differences in the US with accents and language. I was also of the “country come to town” persuasion when I left home for the first time.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Same here, Liz! It’s also surprised me, since joining the blogging world, how many things are shared across countries. I can write a post about certain memories of the 50s – toys, fashions, food etc etc – and find that readers in the States, Canada, New Zealand, Africa, India remember the same or similar things.

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  3. I made the reverse move – England to Wales. My mother died when I was 7 and my brother and I were sent from Chard, Somerset, to live with our dad’s mother in Cardiff. Although I’m a bit vague now on the expressions we brought with us (outside of Woch-er (greeting), Crikey (astonishment), Spiffing (really good), being Swdebashers (a moniker kids from England, sent there for safety during the Blitz, bestowed on the locals), our accents clearly stood out. Worsel Gummidge among the Welsh!
    Our West Country accents didn’t last long and it wasn’t long before Dad was admonishing us because we no longer sounded like Swedebashers. He seemed a little disappointed. Happy days.

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    • Fascinating memory. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard the term swedebashers! It’s amazing how quickly young children lose their accents on moving areas and blend in with the locals. I’ve witnessed it many times as a Primary school teacher and recently with one of my own grandchildren.

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      • The term has probably fallen into disuse as a relic of the war years.
        “Bashing” meant any activity. E.g., square-bashing (soldiers on the parade ground) so, a mild insult.
        I don’t know what the local kids called those from London or Birmingham but I imagine it was something equally dismissive.

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  4. It would be interesting to know what they called them. It’s probably possible to look that up somewhere. I’ll have a go. Thanks for the info on ‘bashing’, I’ve only known it as thumping something or someone.

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