Saturday, December 27, 2003

Shopping and (tele)communication breakdown

I parted from Yoda (and his companion Sleeping Beauty) on Christmas Eve and have been in the Midlands with the rest of my family since. The part of England that my father’s family come from is about half an hour from the centre of Birmingham. Apart from some nearby areas of countryside there really isn’t much of interest here.

In the past, the main feature of the area was one of England’s largest steel mills. This mill was the employer of many generations of my ancestors. The men would do manual work in the mill and some of the women would be employed as typists and receptionists. This all came to an end when the mill closed in the seventies.

These days the main feature of the area is one of England’s largest shopping malls built on the site of the old mill. The mall has ten thousand parking spaces and is packed out at any time of the day. One reason for the crowds is that people travel from far out of the area to get to this mall. Another reason is that (particularly in winter) going to the mall is the only alternative to sitting at home.

I went shopping at ‘Merry Hill’ on Boxing Day and felt very alien on two counts. Firstly, I was underdressed, and secondly I was the only male there without a Beckham inspired haircut. Matters became worse when I opened my mouth and felt like I was speaking a foreign language:

Me: ‘Do you have a brochure about pre-paid deals?’
Sales Girl With Skunk Hair: ‘yer wot?’
Me: ‘I need a pre-paid sim card. I wanted some information about prices’
SGWSH: ‘Ooh, yer mean pay as yer goo’
Me: ‘yeah, pay as you go, sorry’

I also learnt that calling overseas is best referred to as ‘calling a foreign phone’ and recharging your sim card is called ‘topping oop’. I’m learning!