Posted in Family, Personal life, Travel, Writing

Spot the Tourist

Poster announcing improvements to Morecambe promA post about being put in my place on holiday

Whenever I am on holiday, I love people-watching, observing others and eavesdropping on their conversations. Ok, I confess, I do this all year round wherever I am, and it’s a key source of ideas and inspiration for my stories. But it’s not just a storyteller’s habit – my daughter (13) does it too, and we often exchange knowing smiles when we’ve both tuned in to a particular gem.

Popping into the RNLI Lifeboat shop on the Morecambe seafront, we enjoyed hearing an upbeat conversation between the two elderly volunteers agreeing that you are never too old to look forward to the future, citing a friend of theirs who I think must have been in her nineties. I was also enjoying their lovely Lancashire accent, channelling George Formby without the ukelele.

Then, when I took a tin of travel sweets to the till and asked to pay, they went into raptures about my own pronunciation, which is essentially Thames Estuary softened by long absence.

Photo of our tin of RNLI travel sweets, purchased from the Morecambe lifeboat station shop

“Eeh, say that again, would you? Just listen to that accent!” said the first lady, beckoning to her companion.

“Eeh, doesn’t she sound like our friend?” said the second lady. “Go on, say something, love. Just say anything. We love hearing your accent.”

And there was me thinking they were the ones with the accent. Wrong-footed, I was taken back to my childhood, when for a year our whole family lived in the USA, first near Philadelphia and then near Los Angeles. In both places we were constantly being asked to speak, in much the same way as you might cajole a clever pet dog to shake paws. In the next breath they’d ask us whether we knew the Beatles (there, that dates me) or whether we’d met the Queen, then try not to show surprise or disappointment when we said no.

The RNLI ladies’ expectations were not so far-fetched. They asked only whether I came from the same place as their friend – Welwyn. Again I had to disappoint them. (Though later I wondered whether she’d actually said Welling but dropped the final g – in which case my answer would have been a more pleasing “very nearly” as it neighbours my native Sidcup.)

We then fell into a cheery conversation about holidays, and we eventually left the shop with our spirits lifted far beyond the value of the money we’d spent there.

Now whenever I take a sweet from the tin on the dashboard of our camper van, I can’t help but smile at the memory of that encounter – an additional positive association for these distinctive tins of travel sweets, which I’d previously always connected with my grandfather. But that’s another story…

Author:

Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

3 thoughts on “Spot the Tourist

    1. I think so, Sue! My holiday notebook is fast filling up with story ideas! Also doing a lot of holiday reading too – have just reviewed your lovely poetry collection “Tasting Words, Hearing Colours” on Amazon UK and will add it to my book blog next week! 🙂

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