It was a few weeks ago.
I was logged-on to a meeting. Locked, stock to the computer screen, my face flickering at 60Hz, my fingers dancing over the keyboard, and, me, for the most pretending to eye-contact, whilst reading the Guardian.
During these times I exist in a split reality. My focus switching between the hereish and nowish – that is the meeting, and, the news item or Wikipedia page or other flight of fancy. I have adopted a post-Covid poker-face. An, ‘I’m listening’ when my attention is elsewhere.
Occasionally however I am captivated by the goings-on.
This was a meeting of local veterans.
The trust is planning to become veteran friendly. There is a national scheme which provides the organisation with different levels of affiliation dependent upon your commitment to veterans.
This is all the rage in America – I suspect the idea has been borrowed from there.
It used to be on American Airlines, the announcement would be, ‘The disabled, parents of young children and active service personnel to board the plane first.’
America loves its soldiers.
One of the veterans was talking, we were doing the rounds, introducing ourselves.
He described his time ‘in the service’ and subsequent life and current position as a hospital volunteer.
I described mine.
I asked him if he was from the North East.
I have a keen ear for this accent, I think because my grandfather was born in Byker and as a young boy I enjoyed Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Crocodile Shoes and the general output of Jimmy Nail.
‘I left Durham with my parents when I was ten. We moved with lots of other families South to Yorkshire to work in the mines around Dinnington*. Growing-up everyone around me was from Newcastle, Gateshead or the North East. Everyone spoke the same. Then, when I left home and joined the navy I was billeted to Tyneside. The accent has stuck.’
What an unusual sequence of events, social, linguistic and cultural all rolled into one.
He is in his 70’s.
Most people leaving an area when they are ten and relocating, will adopt the local accent, he retained his.
Some struggle with the Geordie accent.
I love it.
Maybe too much Jimmy and Sting as a youngster.
We move around and we pick-up cultural nuggets, memes, notions and perceptions associated with that locality. We are a patchwork of places and times. I am a patchwork too, that was perhaps what made me reflect on my own journey, my own travels.
Take a moment and look at yourself. What and where and who are your constituent parts? It is easy to think that you are you and you have made you, yet, you are a construct of time and place, just like my sailor from Dinnington.
*Dinnington is a small town in South Yorkshire within the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham.