What would I do without Alan Bennett to express these things for me?

The accent of course doesn’t seem to change – a Leeds accent not at all rough-sounding to me but rather wet and lackadaisical. I tried to lose my northern accent at one period, the fifties I suppose, when the provincial voice was still looked down on. Then it came back and now I don’t know where I am, sometimes saying my ‘a’s long, sometimes short, though it’s the ‘u’s that are a continuing threat – words like butcher, sugar, and names like ‘Cutbush’ always lying in ambush…

The truth is anyone from the north who ventures south of the Trent contracts an incurable disease of the vowels; it’s a disease to which weather forecasters are particularly prone, and, for some reason, lecturers in sociology.

I’ve been reading a couple of Alan Bennett books recently; this last taken from the short piece No Mean City in Telling Tales. With almost all books my reading voice is my own; that is, virtually inaudible to me in my head, but when it comes to Alan Bennett I find myself reading in his voice. (To an extent, I also read AL Kennedy in something approximating her voice.)

Slipping into Alan Bennett’s voice is, of course, easier for me than it might be for you, since I share his original accent. I made sure my accent damn well stayed lost, however, when I tried to lose it; though as I sat on the train reading the above passage I found myself giggling in recognition. I have toadying ‘a’s – they follow what goes before. Imagine that, for whatever reason, I wanted to describe to you a tall castle. That would be

a tall carstle

A squat castle, however, would be

a squat casstle

And ‘u’s are, as Alan Bennett describes, something to which I haven’t really found an answer. (That’s, an arnser.) They are the sign to fellow northerners that I am secretly one of them, they are the automatic ‘Thank you’ to the sneaky German ‘Good luck’.

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