You’d think, after nearly 30 years amongst the heathens – sorry, in Doncaster – the locals would’ve stopped asking.
The scene: a market stall, a few weeks back. Me: purchasing a belt. Because, even in Doncaster, it’s not considered good form for your trousers to keep falling down.
Market trader: “How long are you on holiday?”
Me: “Nearly 30 years, and counting.”
Try and assimilate, and what do you get? Decades of daft questions, and poor attempts at American accents. Oh, and being told: “You’ve not lost your American twang.”
Twang? What am I, a bloody banjo?
I could, and quite probably will, whinge for both Britain and America about this. For the rest of my life, in triplicate, with church bells on.
This mongrel voice of mine may be as British as it’s going to get. Or perhaps my accent will rot down even further, like a pumpkin on a compost heap, and I’ll end up saying: “Like as ‘eck as not” like a good ‘un.
I’ve been thinking about assimilation, and mongrels – the human kind, not the ones that make puppy eyes at you til you splash out forty quid on squeaky toys, and dog beds – a lot. Because not only am I an Anglo-Romanian-American, I’m living in Muttsville, S Yorks.
I was quite honestly shocked when I realised that three of my local friends were actually born in Donny, rather than elsewhere in the UK. Up til then, most of my Doncaster friends had turned out to be originally from Notts, or Wiltshire, or were Army kids who previously lived in Germany and other parts abroad.
That’s not counting the neighbours and friends who moved here from Pakistan, the Czech Republic, Ireland, the Philippines, the West Indies, etc., etc. Or their children, who were born here, and boast the kind of Yorkshire accents I’m never going to achieve.
The flip side of having a mongrel Michigan-Yorkshire accent is that having met me, people tend to remember me. I’d like to think it’s down to great personal charm. Deep down though I know it’s because I have a voice that stumbles and bumbles its way between one continent, and a big county, in a bigger island.
A county and an island that I love: deeply, fiercely. Even, occasionally, despite myself.
So I’ve resigned myself to what remains of a lifetime of answering daft questions, and people taking the piss.
Note: “The Elephant in the Room” is an on-going project by Doncaster’s Richard Bell, who is known to many in Doncaster as “The Sandhouse Man”.