This year, I've decided to raise my game as far as New Year Resolutions are concerned. So rather than mess about with the simply unachievable, this year I'm aiming for a spectacularly unlikely lifestyle change. I'm going to learn to love opera. Maybe even ballet too.
This seems to fit nicely with my Cabinet role which includes culture. There are, however, hidden perils for a native Bristolian such as myself.
To understand why, you have to understand something about the Bristol accent, known variously as 'Bristolese' or simply "Bristle". A variant of the standard West Country burr, Bristle makes speakers sound like they have a permanently blocked nose. Its unique feature is the "Bristol L", whereby natives add an 'l' on to the end of words ending with the letter 'a'. So Formica becomes Formical, a Ford Astra is a Ford Astral, films come from Americal and so on.
(As a youngster, I distinctly remember being confused about the fact that there were two different meanings of the word aeriel - there was your car aeriel, of course, and the areal in which you lived).
And so to the opera link. In the 70's, I can also recall BBC Nationwide sending down metropolitan reporters to accost unsuspecting Bristolians outside the Hippodrome, and ask them to read the opera poster outside. Invariably they said something like "The Carl Rosal Operal presents Carl Orff's "Carminal Branal" before the passer-by stopped and looked quizzically, wondering why the reporter was sniggering.
So I'll have to brush up my pronunctiation before attempting Toscal or Rigolletol. I'll keep you posted on how I get on.