Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Am I British yet?

Nope. Not even close. Apparently a hardcore southern drawl, acquired when I was approximately half as old as I am now, doesn’t go away easily. And that’s a good thing, because I really do love my sweet home Alabama – and the accent that goes with it. To be honest, it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to either – people still assume that I’m American and with the abundance of accents and dialects found in this city, I don’t really stand out. But in the last few days, two things have happened that made me think about it after all.
First, one if my dear friends from Alabama made a comment about my use of the word brilliant. And I thought, is that a particularly British word? I decided that it might very well be, but it’s also a very good word, so there you go. Moving on. Until last night, when one of the clever people I follow on Twitter tweeted the following: I think all Americans are allowed one British-ism. Some say ‘bloody’ or sign off with ‘cheers’. I tend to overuse ‘brilliant’. What’s yours? And I thought; where do I tick the box for all of the above?
I use ‘bloody’ a lot. Because it’s a good word. It lets you put some emphasis on what you’re saying – without swearing. Bloody isn’t a swearword. It’s just a funny expression that the British use. Similarly wonderful words are ‘bugger’ and ‘sod it’. A cute British way of saying that something sucks. Interestingly enough, if you look up the etymology of those two expressions, you’ll find that in their original meaning, they’re not exactly cute. Actually, they are very profane. But to me, they’re just swearwords-that-aren’t-swearwords. They remind me of my high school art teacher Mrs. Manning, who would always make up harmless versions of swearwords – a lot like those impeccably groomed housewives of the 1960’s, trying to impart manners on their children.  To me, that’s the epitome of bugger.
I also say ‘flat’ instead of apartment. Because if I say apartment, it makes me sound like I’m incredibly pretentious and want the world to know that I live in a brand-spanking-new, fully serviced penthouse. I don’t. I live in a lovely flat in Angel.
I try to remember to say trousers instead of ‘pants. Because apparently, pants are underwear. And so are suspenders. Which, in the British, non-underwear version, are called braces. See why I’m confused? That’s why, more often than not, I forget to say trousers instead of pants. And I’m not even going to get into the whole chips/crisps/fries debacle…
On a less language-related note, I have become quite efficient at navigating London traffic without ending up as road kill: driving on the left side of the road doesn’t seem outrageously wrong anymore – well, at least not when I’m walking or on a bus. Put me in a car, and it’s a completely different story. Also, I have learned to completely disregard the colors on traffic lights and just check for cars instead – but that’s probably not particularly British, it might just be a London-thing. However, I haven’t yet taken to the British habit of referring to Europe as a concept that is as distant as the moon – because despite popular belief (and the whole island-and-big-body-of-water-business) I’m pretty sure that the UK is still a part of Europe. But maybe that’s just me.
So even with jaywalking and upside-down traffic all sorted out, it appears that my southern accent is still intact. However, I will admit that it is experiencing a somewhat confused vocabulary these days – some words have just crept into my brain without letting me know about it, others are chosen consciously because they are adorably British. Or simply because they don’t mean underwear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Waiting Room

The man is pretty big on music. So a few years ago, while we were living in Copenhagen, he asked me to try to get tickets for a concert with some rock band – I’m thinking it was something along the lines of AC/DC or Metallica, but I really couldn’t tell you for sure. You see, I’m not very big on music. Anyway, it was one of those things that would sell out within minutes, and because he was unable to sit in front of a computer, yelling at the screen like a crazy person, he asked me to do it. I, being the suave girlfriend that I am, secured tickets for said concert within minutes, and received quite a bit of street cred for it.
Why I am telling you this? Because yesterday morning, I entered the waiting room on roh.org.uk for the first time – for those of you who have other interests in life than performing arts, ROH stands for Royal Opera House – and I have to admit I was not quite as suave this time around. Let me recap. At 10:00 am yesterday, public booking opened for The Royal Ballet's 2012 Summer Season. At 10:01 am, I was happily typing the above letters into my browser – only to be met by a message that said something about a very high demand for tickets and please try again later. Hrmpf. Obviously this wasn’t what I’d imagined, so there may or may not have been some swearing going on at this point. Anyway, I kept hitting refresh, and at exactly 10:52 am I was allowed into the waiting room – where I was told that I was number 1955 in the queue… Yep, four digits! Fast forward to 12:19 pm, and I was down to three digits. Needless to say, while all this was going on, I was of course working away, and just checking that all important webpage every couple of minutes. By the time 2:34 pm rolled around, I had finally reached single digits and was graciously ushered into the land of promise – the ‘Book Now’ section! Frantic clicking ensued, along with desperate searching for the note where I had jotted down the preferred dates for each performance – first and second choices, of course. The cool, ticket-scoring girlfriend was nowhere to be found. Why? I have no idea. The note was right there on my desk – I am a ridiculously tidy person – and while they may keep you waiting for 3 hours and 42 minutes, once you get to the money-spending part, you are granted a full 30 minutes to complete your shopping spree. So at 2:56 pm, I emerged victoriously. Quite a few Pounds poorer, but the proud owner of a nice collection of tickets – one of them for my beloved La Sylphide, featuring one of ballet’s golden couples: Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, an item both on- and offstage and known to geeks such as myself simply as Jolina.
So I guess the equation goes something like this: world famous rock band = bring it on. Pointe shoes and ancient love stories = nervous wreck. What can I say – ballet rocks! Also, I’m just not very big on events where you pay a fortune to get in and don’t even get a seat. And people bump into you. And step on your feet. Yeah, I’m a grumpy old lady… However, while the 3 hours and 42 minutes of waiting did nothing for my work efficiency yesterday, it does make a grumpy old lady very happy that the classical arts are so greatly appreciated in this city that people actually camp out for hours and hours in a virtual queue to secure tickets for their favorite casts and performances. Did I mention that The Royal Ballet’s most recent world premiere features some lady named Alison Mosshart? Yeah, ballet really does rock.

PS. I promise I will try to write about something other than ballet next time. It's just so hard.