She offers to help pack the shopping into the flimsy plastic bags, which I promise you all will be immediately reused as rubbish bags on site, and I reflect on how the world has changed. Long ago, or maybe it wasn’t so long ago, women shopped with baskets on their arms and headscarves on their heads at small shops where the shopkeeper would have promptly identified me as a furriner. I wouldn’t have had to say a word, I just wasn’t one of their regulars that was all. Now I’m shopping in the same supermarket as I can anywhere else and there isn’t much call for conversation, no small talk, just business.
I’ve always prided myself on learning a smattering of the local language on my travels, backing myself up on occasions with a lingua franca. I’ve spoken Spanish to a Bulgarian lorry driver. I’ve negotiated for the carpark machine change in Greek and more importantly, found out which was the better brand of Ouzo. I’ve learned greetings in Arabic. I can read, but never pronounce, road signs in Welsh. I’m a dab hand at manipulating phrase book stock phrases into something more useful. I love words, whatever their language, and the privilege of being to able to communicate.
We finish packing, only a small shop after all, topping up on the fresh stuff that we can’t store for long regardless of the weather and she smiles, I smile. I fish out the ubiquitous plastic rectangle from my purse, another change in this modern world of shopping.
I sum up my best expression, carefully practised in my mind, and as I hand over the card, say:
This is in response to the RemembeRED challenge to write a creative non fiction 400 word piece on Dialect and Colloquialisms, I came in with 280 words this week, always under or over!
I love the joys of dialect, the little quirky expressions and how the slightest change of a vowel can place you on the other side of the world so this challenge was right up my street, well good even. I also want to dedicate it to my strange-talking Norfolk-boy husband who despite leaving the county of his birth when he was a child still can be relied on to say ‘bootful’ and ‘toosday’ as well as other curiosities.
If you want to find out a little more about the language that they speak in this corner of England then check out these two links, some things are as alien to me as their landscape but in other pronunciations there is a similarity with the West Country tongue that I am far more familiar with, although less common and less retained than the dialect of the East.