The Last Word

Issue 81

The return to holiday planning after two years of Covid restrictions and limitations should be a time of optimism. However chaos on the railways from the RMT strikes raises considerable concerns that we are facing not a winter of discontent but a summer of disappointment.

Others who are considering strike ballots include doctors, nurses, civil service workers, BT engineers and barristers. Even traffic wardens are threatening to go on strike – what a treat!

Added to this are the mass cancellations of holiday flights, staggering petrol and diesel price increases, airport delays, and the worry that you may be rerouted to Rwanda. Welcome signs of a normal summer at home included the invitation I received as a DL to represent the Lord Lieutenant at the South Shields Armed Forces Day, which returned after two years. The day is jointly organised by South Tyneside Council and the Badlanders Motor Cycle Association.

Together with the Mayor, Councillor Pat Hay, I took the salute of the parade along Sea Road led by 600 motorbikes, followed by sections of the armed forces, cadets, emergency services as well as the Houghton le Spring Pipe and Drum Band and the Westoe Brass Band.

It was a great day of tribute to the armed forces and many veterans. It was followed by A Family Fun Day and showed South Shields at its best.

An evening of great nostalgia was enjoyed at the Sunderland Empire seeing the Simon and Garfunkel Story, direct from the west end. Brilliant portrayals of the greatest hits including Bridge Over Troubled Water – the highest selling album ever. This is not to be missed particularly for aficionados like myself. The show is returning shortly to the Sage.

A pre-theatre meal at Aperitif next door to the Empire turned into a reunion treat. On arrival we found that the smart Italian restaurant is owned and operated by client and friend David Liu for whom I acted in the 1980s when he opened Ming Dynasty ll. He reminded me that I obtained the Restaurant licence for him. We received a royal welcome. Aperitif is greatly recommended.

A study by researchers at Northumbria University has reported that people with strong northern accents are viewed as ”less intelligent” and ”less educated” than their southern counterparts. They found that ”accentism” causes ”profound” social, economic and educational harm for those with ”denigrated accents” in the UK.

The report, ‘Speaking of Prejudice’, suggested that accenticism is active in the UK and that accents should be made a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. This was particularly in view of the finding that unconscious bias may make it harder for people with northern accents to secure places at good universities and that speaking with ‘denigrated or low in status accents’ were more likely to be found guilty of a crime in court. On the other hand such accents appear to be a positive advantage in securing a job as a Radio or TV announcer or presenter or selection as an MP. Speaking like William Rees-Mogg no longer attracts universal admiration particularly with the BBC, parliamentary selection committees or Question Time audiences.

Some regard Angela Rayner’s accent, grammar and syntax as some evidence of connection with ordinary people. This does indeed show the danger of making assumptions from stereotypes on either side of the divide. Accents and those using them can be obtuse!

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