Tea and Crumpets with a British Accent by @AngelaStevens13

Union JackI’m British. Judging by the title of this piece, I probably didn’t need to add that, but I felt compelled to justify myself. It has been sixteen years since I left England (with my British accent), and moved first to Singapore and then to America. Sixteen years is a long time. In that time, my kids went from little children to fully fledged adults, I went from being a teacher to being a full-time author, and my accent went from being British, to being… well, that is debatable.

For sure, my British accent has mellowed. As a kid, I grew up sounding like Cilla Black, and Paul McCartney. I didn’t actually come from Liverpool, but across the River Mersey from there… what they called a ‘wooly back’. My soft Scouse accent was not considered Liverpudlian enough, by those born in Liverpool, but was made fun of for being full-on ‘Scouser’ thirty miles down the road, in Manchester.  One of my earliest memories at college there, was asking for directions at the train station, and the guy on the platform saying, “Bloody hell, you can tell you got off the Liverpool train!” (Except he said it with a Mancunian accent.)

It took me by surprise, as the only time I ever thought I sounded like I was from Liverpool was when I heard myself recorded. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that was a quirk of the tape recorder, butchering my voice. I liked to think, I had a more neutral, ‘posher’ accent than that. You see, in England, northern accents–of which there are many–are not regarded in high esteem.

I should probably put a disclaimer in here somewhere, *by those with southern accents.

Britain Is Regional

Britain is actually full of accents. They are very regional, so regional that twenty or thirty miles down the road there is a completely different one. No kidding. And it’s not just the accents either, it’s words we use for common everyday things that change. For instance, in Norfolk, they call ladybirds (ladybugs to Americans) bishy barnabees. How cute is that? Cute and totally indecipherable if you aren’t from Norfolk, right?

Seriously, if you are born in the UK, you have to be multilingual.

If you go into a store and ask for a barm/ barm cake roll, stottie, cob, bin-lid, teacake, oggie, lardy cake, breadcake, rowie, bap, muffin, or batch you will essentially be given the same thing, a bread roll. However, the way you ask for it says something about you. It gives away exactly where you were born and what social class you put yourself into.

Now technically, if you lined all these ‘bread rolls’ up, you would see subtle differences. If you gave me a barm or batch instead of a cob, I’d be unhappy. I like my bread very ‘crusty’, preferably with a nice big air bubble in it. I’m happy when it shatters when you bite into it and then fights you when you try to rip it off.

That’s a cob roll.

Not a batch or a barm.

That’s not to say, that I don’t like a batch now and then. Certain stuff, bacon for instance, requires white bread, doughy, with extra flour sprinkled on top. I do not want crusty bread with my bacon butty!

Bacon Butty

The thing is, all over England, when you walk into a sandwich shop and place an order, you inadvertently proudly claim your heritage by the term you use. But no one blinks, no one looks at you blankly, they all translate automatically, and hand you a sandwich on a bread roll.

When I moved to America, it was the first time that I became aware that I not only had an accent, but that apparently, I spoke a completely different language altogether. In fact, it was so different that often I couldn’t even be remotely understood.

My British Accent

In Pot Belly’s, I asked for ‘Chewna on wheat’–which, I’d proudly learned was how to order a sandwich in America. You have to name the type of bread they use, not the style of roll they put it on.

The assistant serving me, stared back.

Them: “Cheese?”

Me: “No, Chewna.”

Them: “Ham?”

I was losing my patience by now, but with typical British politeness, I smiled and repeated my request again, showing no annoyance to the person who was obviously going out of their way to misunderstand me. But to no avail.  Exhausting all the usual sandwich fillings, except for the one I actually wanted, they looked at me apologetically…

Them: “Could you point to it?”

After I eventually got my Tooooona sandwich, I should have quit while I was ahead. But no. I was thirsty.

Me: “Could I have, a wot-toah.”

Them: “Iced tea?’

Me: “Actually, I changed my mind, just the sandwich.”

Similar scenes have played out across America. For the most part, I have managed to get by, pretending I speak the language by putting on an American accent for certain words. However, there are some words, I find it impossible to say with an American accent, or are so drilled into my psyche that I can’t make myself butcher it; ga-rij, parm-a-san, baas-sil, mum, for instance. But these days, thankfully, I have a little 5-year-old translator in my grandson who helps me out in times of difficulty. We are very proud of him, he is bilingual in American and British English.

All this, I can perfectly understand. Even though I no longer sound like Paul McCartney, and despite everyone in England being convinced that I speak like a Yank, I realize that to all Americans, I still have what they mainly describe as a ‘cute British accent’.

Although I have enough grounding in American to translate most words that are completely different– boot to trunk, bonnet to hood, pavement to sidewalk–every now and then, I have a mental block. Like recently, during a kitchen installation, when I said hob and then had to look up a picture of my cooktop because I just could not think of the translated word (thank God for Google.)

However, it appears that my accent is not confined to the spoken word, but the written one too, and unfortunately, having a British accent in writing is not so ‘cute’.

On the whole, after sixteen years, I have managed to lose most Briticisms from my work, along with the spellings of ‘ou’, and double ‘ss’. To catch the stuff that I don’t see–because, well, it is my native language, so it does look right to me–I use an American editor and an American proof reader, and it always seems like they catch a new British phrase. I got my manuscript back from my editor a couple of days ago. She likes to provide me with an American alternative to switch out the offending British one. This time the phrase was “Damn cheek!”

Her note to me had me in stitches. “Angela, I had to look this up because I was confused—British term. I think in USA it is similar to “damn bum” or “damn fool” in case you want to change it.” (She’s always so polite.)

British Accent

‘Damn Cheek’, does not translate as any of those things! But I do admire her for trying. So, just for fun, anyone who is a ‘native American speaker’ want to hazard a guess at a good translation? Go on, have a go, I like a good giggle.  *Answer at bottom of page.

Tea and Crumpets

By now, you have probably been wondering what my blog title has to do with any of my blog post. Well, as an expat, there are things I really miss from back home. Tea, is number 1, of course. Sorry, America, but when you threw the tea in Boston harbor, you should have asked for the recipe first. Sixteen years, is a long time to go without one decent cup of tea, and as I drink around six a day, sometimes more, one of the first things I had to do was find a source of British tea bags, at a reasonable price. Thank you, Amazon! I now buy PG Tips in boxes of 2000, on repeat order, because I’d have a mental breakdown if I actually ran out!

For some unfathomable reason, I have been craving crumpets, recently. That is not to be mistaken for wanting crumpet. That means two VERY different things in England!!!

Crumpet

Now, in their essence, crumpets are yet another type of bread, but they would NEVER be used in a sandwich. Crumpets are primarily a breakfast food, or served in an archetypal English cream tea. Circular, and made from a dough that is sticky and loose, it has rows of vertical holes. It is cooked in a frying pan–a bit like pancakes (American versions, not British ones) or drop scones. They are great served hot, with butter that fills up those holes. I prefer mine rounded off with marmalade.

This week, I learned to make them from scratch. It’s something I would never have considered doing in the UK because they are available so cheaply in every grocery store. But due to my craving, and the, um, distinct lack of crumpet (actually, this means something else entirely, too), I made them myself. And, pardon my English, they were bloody delicious.

I’m making more tomorrow, so anyone who wants to, pop around for tea and crumpets, we will be serving them around 4pm.

For those of you who enjoy dual-language books, I have an extensive list on Amazon. Many are hiding out in lots of Authors’ Billboard boxed sets.

Learn more about me and what I write at my website.

The manuscript I spoke of earlier, the one with the now corrected ‘Damn Cheek’ will be available in the up and coming boxed set, Cute but Crazy: Unique and Unpredictable. I’m excited to release this book, my first rom-com, exclusively to this boxed set, first!

British Accent

Glossary of “British Accent” terms:

  • Wooly back- person born in Birkenhead, or south of the River Mersey but still in Merseyside
  • Scouse/ scouser, Liverpudlian- dialect spoken in Liverpool or coming from Liverpool
  • Mancunian – accent/ dialect of people from Manchester
  • ga-rij, parm-a-san, baas-sil, chew-na: garage, Parmesan cheese, basil (herb), Tuna
  • wot-toah – water
  • Hob – cooktop
  • wanting crumpet – desiring sex
  • lack of crumpet – a distinct absence of good looking girls present
  • bloody delicious – really tasty
  • Damn cheek! – What a nerve!/ The nerve of it!

A Challenging Year … Enter “Mattress Mack” by @TaylorLeeWrites

To say this has been a challenging year is a massive understatement. But then how do we describe, much less fathom, a year when half a million Americans have died from Covid 19? Add that millions of people have lost their jobs, foodbanks are running out of food, schools are operating at half-mast… the list goes on. A breathtakingly challenging year indeed.

But I’m an optimist at heart and was beginning to think we might be turning the corner. On a personal level, my “guy” underwent months of radiation treatment and his prognosis is encouraging. We made it through the holidays. Hopefully next year I will be able to celebrate with my daughters and grandsons. The election drama is over. Help from the federal government to people in desperate need seems to be on the way. I got my first vaccine shot. Yep, I thought, maybe the challenging year was behind us and things were beginning to look up. I decided we might be able to get back to living life again.

And then the storm of a decade (century?) hit Texas. As of Sunday, more than 14 million Texans were under orders to boil their water before drinking it–or did not have water. Millions lost power.  We saw pictures of families putting on all their clothes and huddling under covers with their kids in below zero temperatures. Across the state, neighbors lined up at municipal spigots for water, melted snow to flush their toilets, and lined up for food at poorly stocked grocery stores and food banks. The scenes were devastating. So much for optimism.

Just when I was about to give into depression, along came Mattress Mack! In case you missed the story, Mattress Mack, otherwise known as James F. McIngvale, is a Houston furniture store owner who was known to dress up in a mattress in his television commercials. According to the Associated Press, seeing his fellow Texans cold and hungry, with little shelter from the winter storm, Mattress Mack opened his doors. In the last week thousands spent a few hours on armchairs and couches to warm up, or slept on their choice of beds in the 100,000 square foot showroom. Little kids played on playground equipment. They ate donated food or food paid for by Mr. McIngvale. McIngvale said, “When my people are dying and freezing, I am going to take care of them,” he said. “That comes before profit every time.”

I don’t know about you, but knowing that there are people like Mattress Mack, selfless beacons of hope in decidedly crummy times, is inspiring.  It might even confirm that being a “cock-eyed” optimist is at least worth considering. Onward.

On a decidedly optimistic note, my latest book goes live today.

Challenging Year

He’s a hard as nails police chief.  She’s a feisty ADA. The one thing they have in common is arrogance.  Sparks flare when the challenging duo face off. You Can’t Always Get What You Want is the third standalone book in The Olive or Twist Saga, a steamy romantic suspense series. If you like smart characters, cops, courts, and scorching passion, then you’ll love this sizzling thrill-ride. Grab your copy of You Can’t Always Get What You Want to get hot under the collar today!

Why Do We Love Bully Romances?

I know, I know. Not everyone loves bully romances. But in spite of the evil, un-romantic sound of the genre niche, it’s grown in popularity in the past few years. This niche takes the bad boy hero a step further into the realm of vicious. These days you can find a half a dozen bully romances in the top 100 romances on Amazon at any given time, with titles like Angry God by L.J. Shen.

The extreme bad boy trope has not only spawned the high school/college bully romance niche, but has expanded into other dark romance sub-niches such as the mafia romance and the motor cycle club romance (MC romance).

Why all this popularity with evil heroes, from high school and college bullies to professional criminals? On the surface, these horrible men hardly seem appropriate heroes for a happy-ever-after romance. The cruel bully seems antithetical to everything a romantic hero should be, right?

But like the pirate romances of the past, these romances thrive because they represent the ultimate conquest of love over evil. Redeeming the worst possible man with the power of romantic love, plus the right heroine, is an irresistible idea. Not to mention very romantic.

The strong heroine is central to these new dark bully bad boy romances, differentiating them somewhat from the pirate romances of the seventies (though you could prove me wrong with some examples, most of the pirate heroines seemed to be cast as victims needing rescue.)

The irresistible appeal of the-darker-the-better hero comes from the satisfaction of that redemption, so much more powerful when the hero is finally led to the seemingly impossible happy ending. The stakes of saving the extreme bad boy in a romance is the equivalent of saving the world in a thriller or fantasy novel, allowing the heroine and romantic love to achieve the ultimate victory.

Needless to say, these stories are not easy to pull off! I love reading them, getting drawn in by the raw and extreme emotional stakes, but writing them? That takes some doing. Hopefully, I’m up to the challenge.

How do you find these crazy monster bad-boy romances? They’re often labeled as bully romances, dark romances, mafia romances and MC romances. Sometimes enemies-to-lovers and hate-to-love romances can feature evil heroes. Also, vampire romances often feature the similarly extremely dark heroes transformed by love.

A few of my favorite dark/bully romance authors are L.J. Shen, Meagan Brandy and Ilsa Madden Mills.

You can also look for my Feb. 26th release, Big Man on Campus featuring a bully hero on the mend in this enemies-to-lovers college sports romance.

Pre-Order BIG MAN ON CAMPUS now on Amazon

Come cruise with me…

It’s difficult to realize how our lives have changed in the last year. How often do you curse the CoronaVirus ? I do it more often than I can count. Probably every time I open my closet and glance at the gorgeous silver sandals I bought specifically for my April 2020 cruise on the West Coast, the cruise that we never took, the cruise that was canceled because of the pandemic.

Some people miss socializing, eating in restaurant, going to movies, shopping at the malls. I miss my cruises. I miss them like hell. Cruises are becoming the most common way to see the world and unwind in an enjoyable surrounding. My husband calculated that it was cheaper to board a ship from Fort Lauderdale and go on a week cruise than pay airfare, hotel, restaurants and entertainments.

Prior to pandemic, my life was divided into two parts, my life at home, a dutiful life spent writing, babysitting, driving the kids, cooking for the kids, inviting friends for dinner, and a carefree life on the ship, pampering myself, indulging in doing what I like, not what I was expected to do, visiting new countries, and far away cities, walking on the deck, showing up at the restaurants to eat meals cooked by the ship cooks, attending shows, writing new stories in a quiet lounge, playing cards with friends,… A useless, uneventful, selfish, boring life that I adored.

Now when I missed my cruises, I look at my pictures neatly organized in folders. I remember the special places with nostalgia and suppress a tear.

Would you like to travel with me around the world? I will take you on my wonderful ship to my favorite places.

In 2006, we started our South American cruise in Santiago, discovered a world of history and culture and reveled in the sights of Viña del Mar, known as the “Chilean Riviera.” We visited the authentic adobe homes once belonging to the Incas. We sailed to a Chilean Patagonia’s maze of fjords, crossing through rivers, steppes and mountains to the north, and observed a colony of delightful penguins, and continued to the Falkland Islands.

In 2014, we explored the East side of South America, cruising from Fort Lauderdale all the way to Brazil. We spent two days in Rio de Janeiro, ascended to the Sugar Loaf Mountain by cable car, and had a peak at the aerial view of Copacabana, the Christ statue, and Guanabara Bay.

Next our ship docked in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. I fell in love with this European city that reminded me of Paris, and Washington DC with its monuments, parks, statues and architecture. We visited the VIP cemetery and the mausoleum of Eva Peron. Nothing beats the tour of the old city and the lunch in restaurant offering Tango shows. Here is a picture of my husband posing with a tango dancer.

 

 

BETWEEN BABIES AND GIRLFRIENDS is a romantic comedy set in Miami, FL and Buenos Aires, the special romance of Dr. Brian Dutton, a very busy American doctor, and Carla, the sophisticated, passionate and sassy daughter of the Governor of Buenos Aires.