I lived in Yorkshire for some years, and it’s surprising how, after only three or four of those years, I was able to see beyond the culture and the people’s strange rituals to the humanity that unites us all, even in locations as diverse as London and Sheffield. There were gaps that could never be bridged of course, and as a Londoner they found it hard to disguise their worshipful attitude towards me, though as they became more confident they would feign mockery of me as one of those “stock-op sothonn’rs”. (The only vowel sound in the local language is ‘o’ as in ‘hot’).
I learned some of the more essential aspects of the language quite quickly, such as ‘moddots’, (‘mud huts’), and I like to think I adapted rather well.
While I was there I met a young woman from another local tribe, (the Barnsleyites), a most becoming creature, though sadly – out of respect for my culture, I assume – she had dressed in the manner of Londoners for the occasion and had her breasts covered. She proved illuminating when it came to domestic life in her village. For example, they keep ants as pets. She asked me where I was from, I said London, and she told me she had an ant living there. I can just imagine her now, wanting to give her favourite pet a better life; saving up her cowrie shells over years for the donkey to take her to the capital, her ant warmly tucked up in a matchbox lined with rat fur; her tearful release of it to find its freedom in Hyde Park or some other refined location where it might profit from the stimulation a new, civilising environment had to offer.
By the time I left Yorkshire I had a rich and rewarding understanding of the people, and an attachment so deep I almost liked them.