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Monday
Jan232017

Understanding Accents

My latest venture, namely a YouTube Podcast was met with mixed reviews, as I expected.

The main criticism was that people could not understand me. I do try to speak slowly, but I am up against this in my daily life.

For example, in restaurants making a request for something as simple as a glass of water, is more often than not met with a blank stare. 

If I were living in a country where everyone spoke precise English, I could understand, but America has not spoken it for years. So if anyone should be allowed to butcher the language it should be me, a native of that country.

The England I grew up in was a mix of regional accents, you could travel just thirty miles and find a totally different dialect. I’m sure today, with people being more mobile that is not so much the case.

I evacuated out of London early in WWII because of the bombing. I lived in the South West of England  from the age of 4 years, so when I returned to the East End of London after the war, I was 10 years old and had a thick rural accent from the South West.

I was ridiculed and bullied horribly by the tough street wise kids who had stayed in London for most of the war. I quickly adapted and picked up the Cockney dialect, it was a survival thing. That is the accent I would keep (More or less.) for the rest of my life.

I say more or less, because when I first came to the US in 1979, I may as well have spoken a foreign language. No one understood a word I said. In the interest of survival I had to adapt. With the London or Cockney dialect, the “H” and “T” are not sounded, neither is “th.”

Actor Michael Caine is known for trivia, and his cockney accent. To do a Michael Caine impression one should end with, “Dere’s no’ a lo’ a people know dat.’ Translated: “There’s not a lot of people know that.” But if you sounded every “T” and “Th” it would not even be a close Michael Caine impression.

In order to be somewhat understood as I went about my daily life, I gradually started putting back the “Ts” and the “H” (Aches.) Many English people on coming to the US speak a precise BBC English, and everyone goes, “Oh, I love your accent.” Personally, I hate it. I told one young man to stop talking like “A poor man’s Hugh Grant.”

I have lived in the US for 38 years, not quite half my life. The accent I have now is a “Basterdized” London accent. But at least it is my accent, it is who I am. It is part of my personality. At over 80 years old it ain’t gonna change now. For my part, I will talk slowly and you for your part, might pay attention and listen carefully. 

If I go back to England, people think I have an American accent. In the US people ask, “What’s that accent, Australian? Irish?” They will guess anything but English.

The written word is a whole different entity, it is an art form all its own, I will not give up writing here. As for the podcast, I will keep it separate from the blog on YouTube. Anyone interested can find it there. If no one is interested or they can’t understands it, it will die a natural death.

 

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Monday
Jan162017

My No Visitor Policy

Here is something new for the New Year, a Podcast. If people like it, there will be others

View on YouTube where you can view full screen if you wish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zXF0IbKI_c

 

Monday
Jan092017

Explore the Great Indoors

Toy manufacturer Fisher Price recently introduced a stationary bike for kids, 3 to 6 years old. My first reaction was, “Does this mean children have abandoned the Great Outdoors completely?” There are those who will argue that some children live in apartments with nowhere to play outside, so isn’t it better to at least get some exercise indoors?

But exercise for a child is not just physical, the mental aspect is tremendously important. A child’s imagination is pure creativity. It is through games, imaginary situations, a child’s mind develops in preparation for a life ahead.

A real bicycle, or tricycle is often a child’s first taste of independence, and freedom. A chance to venture forth alone and unsupervised, if only to the end of the street. With a group of children, a bicycle becomes a horse to play cowboys and Indians, or a car to play cops and robbers.

Before the bicycle was invented I’m sure children used a broom or a stick to represent the horse, but the games were similar. Games that involve chasing each other, friendly competition. However, a stationary bike is already a pretend bicycle, so a pretend bike can hardly become a pretend horse. And how do you chase someone on a stationary bike?

To me the other thing this stationary bike represents is the ‘Fear Factor.’ It has completely taken over our way of life, and that is the real reason children no longer play outside. When I was a kid my mother told me, “Look both ways before crossing the road, and don’t talk to strangers.” Then she sent me out to play, and I was not expected home until it got dark.

I believe there have always been child predators and other dangers, but the problem is because of television and the media in general constantly dwelling on the negative, people are in perpetuity made aware of the dangers.

The actual danger becomes blown out of all proportion. It has even reached the stage where in some areas, parents who allow their children to walk to school unsupervised, are charged with neglect.

When 9/11 happened, people were fond of saying, “If we allow ourselves to live in fear, the terrorists have won.” I believe the ‘Fear’ had crept into our lives long before 9/11. I was reminded of this recently when Charles Manson was back in the news because of his health issues.

It was at the end of the 1960s, about the time of the Manson murders, that everything changed. Prior to that people left their doors unlocked at night, teenage kids climbed into cars with strangers, as they hitch-hiked across the country. After Manson, doors were locked, and people stopped picking up hitch-hikers. The “Bad Guys” had won. Long before there were Terrorists.

Today they have classes in High School to teach Social Skills. Social skills should be learned in pre-school, playing with other kids. It is where a child learns to share, and to fit in with others. Bullying is rife in schools, because kids have spent their early years with mommy, and are suddenly thrown in with a mix of other children, with no clue how to deal with the situation.

Whether a stationary bike for kids is a good or bad thing is a matter of individual opinion. To me it symbolizes the isolation that our children suffer from an early age. Pre-school should be the years to start learning social skills by playing, (Preferably unsupervised) with other kids.

School years are for book learning and strengthening social skills. By High School and into the teen years the individual should be honing social skills and learning how meaningful relationships work. However, if a child is a misfit from an early age, one who finds it difficult to socialize with others , it will be a burden he or she will carry the rest of their life.

Social skills cannot be learned from a book, only by experience. Real experiences that is, like riding a real bicycle.

 

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Friday
Dec302016

Ferdi Kubler 1919 – 2016

In the final days of 2016 Ferdi Kubler, one the last of my boyhood cycling heroes died at the age of 97.

Up until yesterday the 29th. December 2016, Ferdinand "Ferdi" Kubler was the oldest living Tour de France winner, having won in 1950. He was World Road Champion in 1951.

He raced against Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Louison Bobet, and on any given day was equal to or could even beat these riders. He was a climber who could also win in a sprint.

1950, the year Kubler won the tour, was the year I got my first lightweight bike. I was 14 years old, still at school, and too young to race.That didn’t stop me from following all the big races.

The Tour de France was then as it is now, the biggest one of all. There was no live television broadcasts. Just photographs and written stories. The British “Cycling” weekly magazine was the first news source of what was going on.

Every year during the Tour, I would order the French sports papers, LeEquipe and Miroir Sprint. These would arrive two or three weeks later, but were full of large format action photos. I knew only a smattering of French, but could pick out the names.

In a very short time could recognize the individual riders without referring to the captions.

Just as today I can recognize all the top riders, and often watch TV race coverage with a foreign language commentary, or with no sound at all.

And so it was this 14 year old kid from England, followed this group of larger than life heroes. Names like Italian cyclists Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Fiorenzo Magni. French riders, Louison Bobet, Jean Robic, and Raphael Geminiani. Belgian’s Stan Ockers and Rik Van Steenbergen. And then there were a Swiss pair Ferdi Kubler and Hogo Koblet

Over the years, I have written in detail about all these riders, there are links to the articles in the above names. The only one on this list still living is Raphael Geminiani. Who is at the time of writing 91 years old.  Many died young, Fausto  Coppi caught malaria and died in 1960 at age 40. Hugo Koblet died in a car crash in 1964, aged 39.

 
Above: Kubler leads Fausto Coppi

Ferdi Kubler was one of the great riders of his time. Like the others of his era, his best years were lost during WWII when he was restricted to racing in Switzerland. He was already 31 when he won the Tour.

In the Grand Tour events, Kubler won the 1950 Tour de France in front of Stan Ockers of Belgium and Louison Bobet of France. He was also 2nd in the 1954 Tour de France behind Louison Bobet of France. In addition, Kubler won the Points Jersey in the Tour de France that year as well.

He also stood on every podium step of the World Championship Road Race. He was 2nd. in 1949 and 3rd. in 1950. Won in 1951. Now that is perseverance and consistency.

Kubler won a 3rd. podium spot in the 1951 and 1952 Giro d'Italia. He won many of the important races of his day. For example the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic twice, in 1951 and 1952.

I salute you Ferdi Kubler, a great champion, a gentleman and my hero.

I wrote about you on your 90th. birthday.

There were times when I felt you would live forever, or at least to be 100.

You did come pretty close.

 

 

 

 

 

Addendum Dec 31/16

The picture below Was sent to me by ex Manchester Wheeler member Brian Booth. It shows Ferdi Kubler enjoying a game of snooker at the Manchester, Fallowfield Track Clubhouse, during a visit to the UK in the early 1950s. Brian's Dad is on the right wearing glasses. On the left in the shadows holding a cue is Reg Harris, British World Sprint Champion and famous Manchester Wheelers member.

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Wednesday
Dec282016

Recycling old dreams

2016 was somewhat of a banner year for me, in that I reached my 80th. birthday. That is not something that happens every day of the week. In less than six weeks I will be 81, but somehow that is no big deal. The next big one for me will be my 90th. in 2026.

And that will be here soon enough, at the rate time flies when a person reaches my age. I now look back to my childhood and it all seems such a short time ago. Never once during my teen years, or even my twenties, did I consider, or even think about the fact that I might live into the next millennium.

Why not? I now ask myself. I was only 63 when I passed through New Year 2000. There was always a good possibility that I would. Why did it never even occur to me until somewhere around New Year 1999?

George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young.” Shaw was born in 1856, and died in 1950. I was 14 years old when he died, and for some reason I remember it well. Probably because my father was Irish like Shaw, and made a bid deal about it.

I wish now that I had paid more attention to scholars like George Bernard Shaw, because my youth was indeed wasted on me. Looking back, I had so many dreams, but that is all they were, just dreams. Never once did I take steps to make those dreams become even a remote possibility.

I did what most do, I stumbled aimlessly along. Rather than doing what I wanted to do, I did what was expected of me by others. In spite of this, I did have a few more successes than failures, and I should be at least grateful for that. And I am.

Today I am recycling my old dreams. Doing what I wanted to do back when I was wasting my youth. I am achieving moderate success, but I can’t expect much more. After all, time is running out for me.

Youth is a precious gift, because it is the gift of time, and all success needs is time. If anyone does anything long enough  they will become good at it. That is practically guaranteed, but youth cannot see time in the future, youth wants instant success. When instant success doesn’t materialize, youth gives up.

I know this to be true, because I was young once, a short time ago.

 

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