I first noticed it in my head.
The languid drawl as I searched for the right word to match the actions of a selfish queue jumper, just as I was about to touch down my oyster card behind him. “You Cu…..”
For the word, a supposed, horrid word is one I use – a lot. One I use far more when I am in London. One I use far more in my less-than-regal, North London tone. I had only been back 20 minutes and there, in my head, it was if I had never left. I smiled inanely as he brushed past me. No thoughts, other than to silently swear.
It’s amazing how, even in my head, I can pick out the change in my accent as it happens. The journey down is much like selecting Wurzel Gummidge’s sweary London head. The slightly pronounced, “it’s London, but not offensively so” accent I use in Leeds, drifts further down my throat; replaced by a lazy, vulgar, familiar delivery. The telephone voice I use at work, or the commanding, assuring voice I try to present, as I present; trailed off long ago. Replaced by this, by me; the instant I pushed my ticket in to the barrier at Leeds station.
What I am left with is 24 letters. No room for hard Ts or pronounced Hs. They interrupt the conjoined nature of words, winks and nods. “Allomyolson” I might say at the first sight of a mate. “I’mavinapinwhayouwan” you might hear as I head to the bar. “fukofffyoucun” I bellow, politely, happily, as we share stories, rather than disagreements. For everyone is a “cun” or a “slag”, be they good friend or ignorant queue jumper. At least they are in my head; in this delightful accent of mine.
But now it has gone, clipped in to shape by the return home; to wife and child – especially child. Who needs to speak, propa like. To find her Ts and Hs , so that she won’t “be betrayed by her accent and manners”*. Not for her the Neasden Finishing School guide to internal retorts.
Not for her; at least not if her mother can help it.
(* The Jam – Strange Town)