In the tiny village of Hemington, England, one can find the infamous Aten-Shearwood Manor, occupied by the delightful Lady Raz and Lady Rosanna. This lovely duo has done wonderful and extraordinary things with their lives, with one of them being the noble act of continuing to be our world-travel buddies despite the number of sanity-testing incidents which occur during said travels. They are angels, pure and chaste. (Parts of the preceding paragraph are not exactly true. I’ll let you work that out on your own.)
During the Grand Tour, the Aten-Shearwood Manor served as home base, a decision partially-decided by the fact that said Manor is quite near the East Midlands Airport. (You can throw a rock from their back patio and ding a slow-moving flight attendant, if your aim is good and providing that the cows in the nearby pastures don’t rudely interfere with the flight pattern of your projectile.) This airport offers a dizzying array of destinations, including all of the choices for the several mini-jaunts we had planned for this adventure.
We arrived at the Manor on our first day and, after touring the estate and admiring the well-appointed environs (“That kitchen is divine, darling. So precious!), we promptly walked the block or so to the village pub. This is simply what one does when it comes to visiting small English villages with local pubs, and every village has at least one pub.
We clattered into said establishment, where we discovered an enchanting lass manning the bar. Said lass appeared to be about twelve years old, so I promptly made a mental note that labor laws must be a bit different in the UK. (This note was erased a short time later when the lass announced that she had a four-year old child, proving that either my age-determination skill was a bit wonky or people procreate quite early in life when there’s nothing else to do in the village except go to the pub.) We’ll christen the lass “Tina” for the purposes of this story, just in case she was a minor.
Tina squealed when she spied Raz and Rosanna tromping through the door, hollering out a greeting, a salutation which I didn’t quite grasp because there seemed to be a lot of words I didn’t understand, even though it was (in theory) the same language. This would prove to be a theme for the rest of the trip. It’s amazing how various accents can make the exact same word sound completely different.
Tina inquired as to what might quench our palates.
Terry and I both sent a telepathic message to Raz. (“Please order for us because we have no idea. Please.”) Raz promptly handled the situation, pausing only briefly before giving detailed battle plans for the impending campaign.
As Tina clinked glasses and fondled spigots, Raz carried on a lively banter with the Spigotress, chattering about this and that. (Everyone knows everyone else in small English villages, it’s a rule, so there’s plenty of gossip fodder.) Suddenly, I was startled to hear myself yanked into the conversation, a development that carried some degree of trepidation, as I am one of those people who doesn’t talk unless I really want to talk. “Oh, and these are our friends from the States. They’re from Texas.”
Tina paused in mid-preparation of her latest brew, eyeing the two of us suspiciously. (Wise move on her part, as all Texans should be eyed with suspicion until a full background-check has been run.) Then she relented, perhaps reconsidering the potentiality of forthcoming contributions to her tip jar. (I didn’t find out until later that tipping is negligible and even offensive in many parts of the UK). Tina then said something, if my translation is correct, along the lines of “Texas accents hit me special button”.
Raz turned to me (why me? Terry’s right there), smiling brightly: “Say something Texan!”
I don’t know what came out of my mouth. Half-hearted gibberish, I’m sure. The issue here is that I don’t have a Texas accent. I don’t even have an Oklahoma accent, despite being born and bred there. Sure, I can do both of them, when I’m focused and/or drinking, nail it to a tee, but I was out of sorts, what with the jet lag and the tiny village and the beers that I didn’t recognize and the twelve-year-old with a button. I resorted to my natural accent, which is not one, and I ended up sounding like a benign host introducing the next installment of “Masterpiece Theater”. (Minimal points for the naturally-deep voice, but still.)
The light in Tina’s eyes immediately dimmed, and she returned her attention to the quartet of freshly-tapped brews, shoving them toward us across the bar, the one with the least amount of foam ending up in front of me.
Raz’s mouth said this: “Well, then. Let’s head out to the patio and enjoy these. Thanks, Tina!” Raz’s eyes said this, to me: “We must leave in shame now. Thanks for mucking it up, ya bell end. I’m so sorry for your loss, Tina. I’ll try to bring better friends next time.”
We clattered out the door and ensconced ourselves around a table on the nearby patio. Luckily, there was no one else around us who might have special buttons, and the tension eased somewhat.
Then Tina clattered out the door as well, having decided to join us because she had no other customers, another development that happens in small English villages, where everybody knows your name and your business. Unless you’re from Texas.