My name is Naomi and I live in a little town on the outskirts of Birmingham, England. This has its good and bad connotations. One of the bad ones is that it’s hard to find good magazines—I have to order Lula online. Another one is that I don’t have what outsiders think of as a “British” accent.* No, I have a light Brummie accent. Not very noticeable to my ears, but it usually produces a response if I’m anywhere else in the country. I’ll give you a little Wikipedia fact: “A study was conducted in 2008 where people were asked to grade the intelligence of a person based on their accent and the Brummie accent was ranked as the least intelligent accent. It even scored lower than being silent, an example of the stereotype attached to the Brummie accent.” Oh, the joys of stereotypes.
Well, about where I live. We are right slap-bang in the middle of Britain, so unfortunately, we are furthest away from the sea. My town is so small that word gets around if on a given day the thorn-bush branches are sticking too far over the vicarage fence to the footpath behind. I live in that vicarage. Yes, my Dad is a vicar—otherwise known as priest/minister. I’m not sure why, but it seems that people have a lot more interest in you when the vicar introduces you as his daughter.
It isn’t a quaint English village. We still have a white-van man** honking at anybody in a skirt, which in my opinion means you are situated in an area with a dense enough population for there to be an urgent need for window cleaners, plumbers and conservatory fitters. I remember being wolf-whistled in the summer by a window cleaner and then his coming to my house, so I had to hide under the bed. These are the lengths I go to to avoid being embarrassed.
To be honest I have pretty extreme anxiety, such that I don’t really venture out very far from my house. Luckily, the Internet has given me a connection to some things outside that restricted area. My first foray into the World Wide Web was Tumblr (mine is Queen Midas). I discovered the service about three years ago, when I was 14, and I am so thankful for all the music, books, film, art, politics and feminism I have been exposed to there and been able to soak up like a sponge. (My favorites: Lipstick Feminists, Teenage Bedroom, Magpie Nest, I Just Want a Beautiful Life, Got a Girl Crush, The Violet Dreams and this one that’s just called Home.) Plus the Internet has given me this, my first “published” piece of writing, which feels like a big opportunity for a little insignificant person like me. I feel like this Calvin & Hobbes strip is appropriate here:
** Another Wikipedia definition: “‘White van man’ is a usually pejorative stereotype used in the United Kingdom to describe drivers of light commercial vehicles such as the Ford Transit. Such vehicles are commonly painted white in order to facilitate easy sign-writing on the panelled sides. The stereotype represents the drivers of such vehicles as having poor driving skills and/or an aggressive and inconsiderate manner. The stereotypical ‘white van man’ is often self-employed or the owner of a small business such as builder, carpenter or plumber.”