If there's one thing repatriating after a twenty-seven year absence will teach you it's that there are no stupid questions. You might feel stupid asking them at the time, as I did when handed a green plastic disc in the supermarket, but if you're to make any headway, pride must be swallowed. Admittedly, asking questions about ordinary British life, with an ordinary British accent, makes strangers wonder about you, but that's when a "friends only" post on Facebook comes in handy.
"What's that?" - Last week it was in answer to the suggestion I get a "black box" for my car to help boost my non-existent no-claims status in the UK (despite thirty years of blemish-free driving). This week it was in reference to the green, grass-looking stuff in a basket at an outdoor fish stall. Turns out it was samphire, which I'd never heard of and I swear it was not considered "gourmet", nor was it sold in the M&S food hall, when I left. No matter; I purchased some, followed a BBC Good Food recipe involving linguini and salmon, and now I'm addicted.
"Who's that?" I ask this question literally (and I mean literally) every time I turn the telly on. From people on "Strictly" to guests on chat shows and everything in between, unless they're over sixty (and therefore famous before I left), I don't know them from Adam. The people I recognize are Gloria Hunniford, Ken Barlow (not Gary), and um, Gloria Hunniford. My ignorance is saving me a small fortune though, as a celeb on a magazine cover isn't going to make be buy said magazine.
"How do I record a TV programme?" I still don't actually have the answer to this one. With all the Plus One and Catch up stuff, it seems no one is recording telly any more. (I almost carbon-dated myself by saying "taping" there.) It doesn't help that I have one smart TV and one thick TV, so they both work differently. When I've finished unpacking all my stuff I need to devote an afternoon to figuring out all this modern technology.
"Is FREEPOST really free?". This was yesterday's Facebook question for my friends, and yes, it sounds stupid. This is where the swallowing-one's-pride comes in. To apply for a parking permit for a local park, I was required to download the form, print it off (yes) and post it back. The address began with "Freepost" so I was ninety per cent confident I didn't need a stamp, but you never know. Why risk rejection for want of a stamp? Better safe than sorry and all that. And kudos to my FB friends, none of whom left a withering comment.
"What's a dongle?" When I left the UK there was no internet as we now know it. Car phones were invented, (remember them?) as were huge mobile phones although not everyone had them. TVs still only had five channels and hardly anyone had a computer at home. A whole world of jargon has developed since my departure, and as with many American-versus-British words, they're not all the same. I hear "dongle" all the time, but since it's not an everyday word in my part of the USA, all I know is that it's not as rude as it sounds.