Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brunch, encyclopedia and British accent

(A) Brunch

I just returned from brunch with the Mensa Canada group. We ate at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club near the American and Canadian border. Given the proximity to the border, several restaurants/outlets fly both the Canadian and American flags outside their stores. It was a lovely ride down south and back, passing by miles and miles of agriculture land, including some horse farms.

I had the buffet breakfast. It was mostly typical English buffet items with a North American touch. Have to say, the food quality is good* at CAD28, inclusive of tax and tips -- but do remember that this is typical bland English-style food, so you'd have to appreciate the ingredients, i.e. do not expect the dishes to be spicy. [*Note: Except for the cooked-on-the-spot egg Benedict which I did not try, as it seems like I'd prefer the ones at The Pantry in Richmond because I like them slightly more runny.] It even has the donut-shaped Canadian award-winning cheese with a dark/black-coloured herbed-rind amongst its cheese-and-cracker selection. [I do not know the name of the cheese, but for now, you can imagine that it looks like the Grey Owl, except that it comes in a donut-shape.]


(B) Encyclopedia

On my table we have a mix of working adults and retirees from different industries. From trains, to administration, nursing, civil service, accounting, etc. [In previous gatherings, I have met car salesman, clerk, roofing specialist / comedian / videographer, computer specialist, businessman, unemployed, etc.] There is a wide range of occupations and age in the group. Someone shared about a movie based on a real-life story of a very intelligent girl who rose above her squalid life circumstances. In the movie was a real-life joke related to an encyclopedia, so I asked around the table, and it turns out that everyone at my table had access to an encyclopedia when growing-up.

On my way home, I asked the elderly couple (both Mensa members) who were giving me a ride if they had access to an encyclopedia while growing-up. The man had a set and the lady did not have an encyclopedia, but loved to read randomly from the dictionary. She also mentioned that she would checked the "neighbouring words" as well when she looked up a word and/or the page-delimiting words that looks interesting. I mentioned that I did the same too as a child. We agreed that in converting to the digital/internet media, we have lost that random fun-way to extend our vocabulary and knowledge.

Me, growing up amongst my uncle's books
[Note: I was not smiling because 
I was not allowed to for the photo, 
given that I had black-coloured milk teeth.]

In my early childhood, I lived in an extended family. My paternal grandparents doted on my uncle (father's younger brother) and gave him money to buy whatever books he desired. Amongst them was a set of hard-covered encyclopedia (I think it was the Britannica). My family was not English-speaking, and my uncle never spoked English at home, so at that kindergarten age, I could only muster the A-Z and "A for apple, B for boy, C for cat, ..." and so on. Nevertheless, I loved flipping through the thick and heavy encyclopedia books, looking at the pictures, looking for letters, words, pictures that I could recognize or figure out. Sometimes, I even spent time analyzing the pictures to try to understand them and/or correlate back to the words. That caused quite a bit of conflict at home because my uncle was rather possessive about his books, and he did not like us children to touch his things, even though I would personally put the items back exactly where they were from, right-down to the direction of the binder -- yup, I was anal-retentive for details as I wanted to minimized being accused of messing with my uncle's books. After some negotiations amongst the adults, it was finally agreed that the children (us) were allowed to read only the encyclopedia, and only if we handled the books carefully (absolutely no reading with food/drinks nearby) and put the books back in order after use. Being the introvert that I was (and still am), I remember spending hours, randomly flipping through the pages of the encyclopedia (and secretly some other books as well, including the dictionary). My time spent on the encyclopedia was perhaps only matched by my time spent drawing/copying pictures from the English children's story books that my elder brother borrowed from his primary school class library.

Anyway, just to share this story because the current consensus is that IQ is a composite of nature and nurture. In case you're a parent interested in nurturing your child's in-born abilities. [E.g. My GNIE classmate IT whose daughter's linguistic skills is beyond her years, so I told him about Mensa Canada.] Note: I do not currently own any shares of any encyclopedia, dictionary or educational books publishers. I am just sharing this little tidbit for fun.


(C) British accent

At brunch today, we had a visitor from the British Mensa -- let's call him Mr SA. He is ethnically South Asian and spoke with a posh upper-middle class British accent. [IMHO, not quite the upper-class Queen's English yet, but similar.]
When Mr SA spoke with the other Canadian Mensa members who were formerly from the UK, he asked them whereabouts they grew up. From their interactions/reactions, I deduced that the (Caucasian) ex-Britons grew up in (much) humbler neighbourhoods than Mr SA. Mr SA, it seems, grew-up amongst the posh crowd. As you can tell from my photo above, I wasn't born with a silver spoon -- quite the opposite is true, I was working class. So yes, Mensa members are from all walks of life and spans across social classes, especially in Metro Vancouver. That said, Canada is comparatively socially-equitable and generally not class-obsessed. Thus I could tell from the reactions of the elderly ex-Britons that they did not quite appreciate Mr SA's questions, although they had answered him politely.
After Mr SA left the table to join his family for a shopping trip down at Bellingham, USA, (the lady seated to my right) L mentioned that the USA border guards would probably be confused by Mr SA. His accent is clearly posh-British, but in L's opinion, the USA border guards are typically rather "provincial", and thus they would probably need a double-take to resolve their mental association of "posh-British" = "white skin" when it is clearly a "brown skin" man standing in front of them. Oh what fun!


  1. Hi! I've been visiting your blog lately as I come across it after searching for SEC assessment. I must say they are very helpful for a UK nurse like me to learn more about experiences in a Canadian hospital setting.
    I like the humour in your blog. However, just want to point out that there are various accents in the UK and it tells more of his geographic location rather than his social class. Although, historically speaking, upper class people would use Her Majesty's accent; also called "Received Pronounciation". You'll hear many southern people sound similar to PR, but not necessarily posh. Even a homeless person in London speak the same way, some are cockney though. I am from the south and I get that a lot people telling me of my posh accent when I am abroad. Despite the contrary, at home It's just normal and doesn't sound posh to me. I suppose it depends how you perceive it.


    1. Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for visiting, leaving your compliments and sharing your comments. I'm glad that you find my blog helpful for learning about Canadian hospital settings.

      Thanks for pointing out about the geographic location factor behind UK accents. To be honest, I am only familiar with the BBC accent and those similar. For the other accents, I only came across them mainly from movies and youtube, and sometimes I rely on the subtitles to be sure that I understood correctly what was communicated.

      > I get that a lot people telling me of my posh accent when I am abroad.

      The joke in Canada is that Canadians love a British accent. My, you'll be popular here. Hahah!

      Good luck for your SEC assessment.

      Cheers, WD.