Pages

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Citizen Me: Whatever Next?



The next few years were one surprise after another. The first surprise was that after more or less settling down in Norfolk -- not exactly happily for me -- The Man was posted to Liverpool! Being a true Londoner, this did not make him happy and he tried hard to get out of it. But the verdict was they liked his smile and knew he'd be great in the job! And in fact he loved it! He was the Area Commander for the Royal Air Force in the Liverpool area.

I was finding Norfolk difficult. The natives were not exactly welcoming -- the friends I did make were from outside the area -- a Canadian Couple and an American, who married a 'native' became friends -- but otherwise I was pretty much left to myself. I don't think it was so much that I was an American as much as that I was an 'outsider'. Also my eldest son was having a difficult time adjusting to his school and to some of the bullying that went on because he was a 'Yank'.

So quite happily we were off to the Northwest of England and a very different area of England. The Man had already made some friends. They ran a small hotel in Southport and had taken him under their wing -- Derek had done his National Service in the RAF and he and his wife had taken an instant interest in their new guest! It was a few months before I was able to join him, but Around January 1982 we were all together again and living in Southport. For several months we lived in rented accommodation  and had a quite enjoyable time meeting new people and at times a very interesting social life. One event, in particular stand out in my memory!

The Tower Ballroom (Photo: Visit Lancashire)One of The Man's responsibilities in his job was to represent the Royal Air Force at special functions. We had been invited to attend an annual dinner for the Royal Air Force Association. This organization serves to support former and retired members of the RAF is various ways. We accepted the invitation and I got busy making an evening gown that would be appropriate for the occasion. As this was my first event of this kind I was quite nervous about it and looking forward at the same time! On our way to the famous Blackpool Winter Gardens, the Man told me that a well-known television presenter and his wife were to be the guests of honour and that there was even to be a beauty contest to select the Northwest's candidate for Miss RAFA of the United Kingdom, after that there would be a dance in the famous Empress Ballroom.

We arrived to be enthusiastically greeted by the President of the organization and were subsequently introduced to Pebble Mill at One presenter Bob Langley and his wife, Pat, who were to be the guests of honour. What The Man had not realized until then was that we were the other two 'guests of honour'! We were to sit at the head table and we were also to be judges in the Miss RAFA Nortwest competition! In shock, but with no time to panic we were led away to prepare our entrance ...

Fortunately, I did not have time to be anxious -- I was 'on'. The Man looked over at me nervously. I told him to remember I might need guidance knife, fork and spoon-wise! My only concern was to not trip over my feet. The Langley's were introduced first and took their seats. Our names were called and we walked from behind the scenes onto what turned out to be a stage-like platform -- there was fanfare and applause -- from those before and beneath us -- all 400 of them!!! The man did his job well; I was able to decipher his signals as to the appropriate cutlery and I did not spill the wine. As I remember the food was good and all were merry. The Langleys were absolutely charming and friendly. He was quite dishy and very tall... That was the first time I heard the traditional Lancashire toast to the Queen, "The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster"!

After dinner we were taken to a rather small room with a table and a few other officials. This was where the interviews of the 10 or so girls in the competition were to be. The four of us would ask questions of Miss Blackpool, Miss Preston, Miss St. Anne's and the rest and then confer and make an initial selection before the candidates were each presented to the crowd on the Ballroom floor for our final decision. We were pretty sure which girl would win by the end of the the private interviews. When we got to the ballroom, it was in darkness except for a spotlight shining on the judges table with our four chairs. Once again we were introduced! Once again I did not trip over my shoes! And surprise surprise the girl we thought the winner was out-shone by another and we were all surprised. Miss RAFA duly found and crowned, the dancing could begin and we were no longer 'on show'. And dance we did -- all around the room!!

Unfortunately, we had to turn down the Langley's invitation to their hotel room when the dancing was over, we had to get back to our babysitter and it was 4 a.m. by the time we did that! But it was a wonderful initiation into a Lancashire evening's entertainment and one I shall always remember.

20 comments:

  1. Love it! And the ballroom looks spectacular. I'm curious though (since I've kind of touched on the subject in my latest post)...after all these years in Merrie Olde, do you have a British accent? After 25 years in the US, I still get asked 'what part of Australia are you from?'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still have my American accent, though I speak fluent English and American!! Since my American accent is quite mild people often ask me if I am Canadian or American ... Canadians, however, always know!!!

      Delete
  2. What a fun evening; no wonder you remember it so vividly after all this time. It's obvious that you have grace and poise enough to blend in with any situation. Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. You are charming, kind sir!

      Delete
  3. You ought to collect these stories into their own, a perspective most of us will never experience! I do catch so many words that are not used in America, and I marvel at how we do change, without realizing, slowly absorbing all that is around us, becoming the sum of all of our experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have often thought that this is true. It is also interesting the things that don't change!

      Delete
  4. What a lovely memory of Blackpool!
    It must have been tough on your son. When I arrived in the UK at my boarding school in '75 I was the only non-'English' speaker except for an exchange student from Boston. By the time I left my accent had morphed to somewhere between mid-Atlantic and UK. I wasn't bullied; but the minute I opened my mouth I was clearly 'different' and as a kid you want to blend in. All did imitate my accent, including some teachers so I set about losing it. [Did enjoy the school though]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enjoyed that amble ( foxtrot?) along memory lane... nicely written

      Delete
    2. My son had a tough time and eventually we decided, at his insistence, to allow him to return to the States, where he went to my old High School for his junior and senior years. There he learned to love learning and study -- anathema to the crowd he hung around with here, I'm afraid to say.

      Delete
    3. Thank you, thank you, John -- shall we dance?

      Delete
  5. What a fun post, Broad. I really felt I was there. :-) As a Lancastrian born and bred, I'm glad you had such an interesting and enjoyable social high-spot soon after your arrival in my home county.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you may know, Southport opted out of Lancashire many years ago with it had the opportunity to go into cahoots with Merseyside and they have regretted it ever since!;-)

      Delete
    2. Oh, that's just a local government formality, Broad. When I was growing up, Southport was in Lancashire and in my mind it still is. :-)

      Delete
  6. G'day Broad. That's a great post and what a wonderful night you must have had. I do love that ballroom. Take care. Liz...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz -- that ballroom is amazing -- and it's wonderful that it's still going strong!

      Delete
  7. What a great post. Changing friends each time you move is difficult, I have lost track of the number of times we have moved including countries! Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not only 'changing' friends, but not losing track of those you leave behind! That is very challenging for me. It's one of the reasons I make an effort at Christmas to send cards...

      Delete
  8. Dear Broad,
    I simply loved this posting. I could see you in the new dress you'd sewn. I could feel your nervousness. I was there with you back in 1982. It's so wonderful that we can reach across the pond this way and share our stories and rejoice in who we once were and who we have become.
    Thank you so very much for reaching into the past and telling us these stories of your moving to England.

    Peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it interesting that I remember so much -- so much that came back to me once I started to write. I had thought that I would be able to incorporate lots of time into a few posts, but it's all turning out much longer and much more detailed than I thought it would.

      I am very frustrated about that dress! A few days before I wrote the post I actually came across a photograph I didn't even know I had wearing that dress... but can I find it now? Can I heck!!! (That may be a Lancashire expression!!)

      Delete

Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!