Three nights after I arrived in the U.K. I still hadn’t caught up on my sleep, so I was quite loopy, causing Joan to remark to Donna in her best imitation of a Cumbrian brogue that I wasn’t “the full shillin’” every time I did something goofy (like mistaking the giant squirrel topiary in St. Lawrence’s churchyard at the entrance to Morland for a rabbit). By now we were all having fun with the Cumbrian accent: summat for “something,” init for “isn’t it”—the latter is now a standard of mine. And then there’s Joan’s name which had become Jooawn, drawn out with a long awww in the middle. This became uproarious on our night out at the pub (pronounced poob) that Joan and her ex used to own in Great Strickland, a small village a few miles away.
It all started when the three of us walked into the small eighteenth century establishment to find a couple of young guys at the bar who recognized Joan from when she’d managed the place: beers all around and it was Jooawn this and Jooawn that. They got a kick out of three Zambian women imitating their accents; it was foony. Come to find out it was “Quiz Night,” which had already begun. A young guy in a checked shirt and glasses strolled up and down the narrow aisles between booths and tables posing questions from a list he carried. The four or so couples scattered around the small room quietly wrote down their answers. That is until I started playing, with the guys at the bar feeding me the answers through Joan, until I finally got one on my own—Ricky Gervais, don’t remember what the question was—and gave a whoop. And then I got another—the American TV show “Friends.” Another whoop. Couldn’t help it. Everyone knew what was happening and were grinning. I didn’t bother tallying up my score at the end, but the winner insisted we share in the prize, a jug of cider which was passed around. At some point one of the guys remarked that this was the most foon quiz night they’d ever had.