Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Village Life 2: The Sounds of Dalbeattie

respice prospice.
learn from the past - look to the future.

I notice sounds here in the UK even more than I did in the States. I think this is because everything is so new to me. I have to pay close attention; I have to listen well, particularly here in Scotland, in order to understand what people are saying to me.
The accents and indeed the vocabulary is very different from England and from the States. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I admit, if someone is a fast-talker I miss about half of what is said. I listen for key words and tone of voice, and look at facial expression to capture meaning in context; failing that, I look to my partner who very kindly translates for me. I am usually understood when I speak (though not always). I think this has more to do with speaking in a slow, western drawl than with the overall mildness of my accent. In fact, the very notion of my 'mild accent' is beginning to erode. It took me a while to admit that I even had an accent; my denials were met with guffaws. I switched to espousing the idea that, although I might have an accent, it is without question a very, very mild one. This was met with bemused looks, and pats on the head. Of course I have an accent. It is a western drawl of the North American variety. Okay. Fine. Let's move on.

By far the most pleasant sound we encounter is the friendly banter between locals that we hear from the downstairs café. It opens at 9am and by 9:30am a group of regulars are in and chatting. We can't make out what is said but we hear the tone, cadence and accent. It is punctuated with much laughter. To my ear it sounds roughly like: hee hah hoh ahhh, oh aye HAHAHAHAHA! It's like a babbling brook of friendliness. It always puts a smile on my face.

And that last bit (oh, aye HAHAHAHAHA!) is standard and oft heard in Dalbeattie. As is the greeting 'HiYAHH.' Emphasis on the drawn out YAHH. It's not like a karate chop (HIYA!!) like Miss Piggy is famous for; and it's not as clipped as the greeting I commonly use (hiya). Anyway, we think it is a local custom. We haven't heard it said like that anywhere else.

Another local custom is for the young of the village to hang out at The Cross on Friday and Saturday nights, into the wee hours of the morning. They chat, shout, sing, and slurr incomprehensibly as the night goes on. Living in noisy Canterbury with 40,000 college students was good practice for living at The Cross. To be fair, there isn't much in Dalbeattie for the young to do on a weekend, and the fact that they are out (in good weather) singing and laughing instead of texting or playing video games or creating teen pregnancies is something to be glad about. However, I must admit to sometimes praying for a rain shower that lasts from 11pm to 3am. They tend to scurry away when it rains. Which should be most of the winter, I would think. The sound of rain is a lovely thing in itself.

Because we are in the center of town where there are restaurants, small supermarkets and pubs, we also hear the early morning delivery trucks roll in. We hear the drivers operating the tailgates and moving racks of things around as they make their deliveries. It's the sound of commerce; this, in a small town, in a difficult economy, is a welcome sound. Doesn't bother me a bit. Not even the especially loud 4am delivery truck.

One of the most soothing sounds of Dalbeattie is the rushing of the burn. Note: burn is a Scots word to mean small river. The burn flows right through the center of Dalbeattie towards the River Urr. We like to walk along the bank and listen to the water. And there's always Dalbeattie Forest with it's chirping birds and chattering red squirrels. The forest is adjacent to the town, and once inside, it's amazing how quickly the sounds of human endeavor drop away.

The sounds of Dalbeattie range from the friendly banter of locals to machines of commerce to the soothing sounds of nature. All within a small radius, a ten minute walk.

on the bank of the burn

aprapos of 'HiYAHH' this is the only bit of graffiti i've discovered in Dalbeattie thus far.
note the artistic shadow of the camera and my hand.
for comparison purposes, see my past blog entry about graffiti, the peace of wild things.

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