Linguistic voyeurism, British edition

by Mick Rhodes |

“It may not even be worth printing, but as I’m a ‘Claremontier,’ and a British subject, and as old Queenie’s popped her clogs last week, I’ve got an old British car, and also I collect memorabilia, and I’ve got a car badge that celebrated her coronation in 1953.”

Thus began my conversation with Tony Raynor, a 73-year-old Englishman who’s lived in Claremont for three decades. Along with retaining his rather upscale accent, he’s also clearly held on to his cheeky British sense of humor, or humour, I should say.

“And I didn’t know whether maybe taking a picture of that and possibly me and the car would amount to anything or nothing at all.”

He was born August 2, 1949 in Walsall, a small town outside Birmingham, England. He has vague memories of King George VI, the guy who gave his eldest daughter, the late Queen Elizabeth II, her job by dying of a heart attack at 56 on February 6, 1952 after 15 years on the throne. (And was also the basis for the 2010 British film “The King’s Speech.”)

“I’m an old fart,” Tony said.

Though he has no memory of the late queen’s 1953 coronation, he does have a lovely bit of swag in the form of a car badge, from that big day, nearly 70 years hence.

30-year Claremont resident and “British subject” Tony Raynor, 73, displays has commemorative car badge from the late Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation. COURIER photo/Peter Weinberger

He emigrated to the U.S. in about 1985, and he and his wife Anna settled into their Towne Avenue home in Claremont in about 1992.

His full name is Anthony. “But I go by Tony, then when I get all those fake calls and they ask for Anthony, I know it’s bullshit, so I just wind ‘em up,” he explained.

Though it was but a brief discussion, it included many memorable British colloquialisms, including the aforementioned “popped her clogs,” which I’d not yet heard.

“Or we say ‘snuffed it,’ and stuff like that,” Tony said, regarding terms for what we boring Americans just call dying. “‘Popped her clogs,’ that means she croaked.”

I was probably a little too enthusiastically gleeful in my appreciation for his lightly salted Brit-speak. He wasn’t sure what I was on about.

“I don’t think you want to print that,” he said. “What are some of these Claremontiers going to think? They’ll be like, ‘Oh my God. How terrible,’ and that kind of thing.”

“I’m 100 percent going to be printing that. I love that,” I replied, not wanting him to think I was having a go at him.

Tony collects vintage car badges, and he’s also got quite a collectible car: a rare British (of course) 1936 Singer Le Mans, with a distinct red and white color scheme.

Claremont resident and “British subject” Tony Raynor behind the wheel of his stunning and rare 1936 Singer Le Mans. COURIER photo/Peter Weinberger

On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most British and 1 being least British, the Singer is a 261. Looking at it makes me want to grow a handlebar moustache and wax up the curly ends. I’m fairly certain this car has a dress code. My Volvo gets jealous when I look at it. It’s very, very British.

Perhaps my sudden fascination with playful British slang is a result of recently binging the entirety of the brilliant Netflix limited series, “After Life,” which was created, written, directed by, and stars Ricky Gervais. Maybe that’s why I’m now dropping fun UK words like, well, “brilliant,” into my writing.

Or, maybe I’m just a c#$t.


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