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Back To Old Blighty

October 8th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

blightyWe left England when I was four years old and so I cannot really remember much from the time when we actually lived there. As my father was in South Africa on contract we got to go back to England every four years or so for him to renew his contract and for us to see all the family “back home”, as it was called.

The first trip back that I can remember with any clarity was when I was about eight years old in the early 70’s. We flew over in December to spend Christmas in Yorkshire. We left in the heat of summer and I can remember being confused because my mother insisted on us carrying our winter coats and having jerseys in our bags not realising that we were travelling into the teeth of winter. I can clearly remember being highly upset that I had to wear long trousers, warm socks and shoes to travel in, telling us that it would be cold when we got to London was not really a concept we understood.

We arrived on a cold sleety day to warm, happy reunion with Grandparents, and a huge family we had all but forgotten. It seemed as though the entire village was either related to or friendly with my extended family. The warmth of the welcome embraced us and we felt a bit like the return of the prodigals. We were home from foreign parts, you have to understand that my parents were the first in either of their families to travel and live anywhere other than the local surrounds, some of the older members of the family had never even travelled as far as London. Africa was considered extremely remote and “foreign”, South Africa had to be looked up in an atlas to make sure where it actually was.

After the welcome came the disbelief at how we sounded.

I was used to being called an immigrant in South Africa and being told that I spoke funny by other kids, I kind of used being English as a talisman against the alienation, that was where we came from and was where we belonged. It was a bit of a shock to the system, to be told by my cousins that I spoke funny and was not English anymore either!

My brother and I were treated like peculiarities by our aunts, uncles and cousins, being pointed out to perfect strangers as being “All the way from Af-ri-ca” almost as though it was the other end of the universe. Every time we opened our mouths to speak we were stared at because we sound so different. We were spoken about as if we were prize exhibits. The comments went along the lines of:
“Have you spoken to Our Ian’s two?”
“Don’t they talk funny?”
“Why do they talk so posh?”
“Wot yuh talkin’ posh fo’ ?”
All in broad Yorkshire accents, I had thought I sounded just like them!

It was very disconcerting and disturbing for young kids, who had been told for months that they were going “Home” for a visit. Even more disconcerting was the fact that my parents slipped straight back into the local accents and did not even realise that they sounded like strangers to us.

How could this be home when no-one sounded like us? Some people can be so inadvertently cruel, young children have ears and can understand a lot more than you give them credit for. I think this was my first perceptions that I did not belong anywhere in particular and is a feeling I have carried with me for most of my life since then.

Eventually the novelty factor wore off and we were accepted back into the bosom of the family and had a wonderful Christmas, it even snowed and my dad had the pleasure of following the snow plough down to the local pub on New Year’s Eve. We were also suitably spoilt with toys and clothes that had to be carted back to South Africa in an extra suitcase. I was very sorry to leave my Grandparents but was equally happy to be home in South Africa.

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  1. October 12th, 2009 at 09:56 | #1

    I have always maintained that the English South African accent sounds a hell of a lot better than what is spoken in the majority of England 😀

  2. avatar
    Cloudgazer
    October 12th, 2009 at 17:24 | #2

    The majority of what is spoken in England is hardly english, more like a hybrid anglo-mxit dialect.

  3. avatar
    colleen
    October 27th, 2009 at 09:33 | #3

    Bittersweet story

  1. January 18th, 2014 at 04:11 | #1

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