I received an email at work the other day. I’ve changed the identifiable details, but this is the gist. Somebody from England was complaining that a delivery had arrived later than the day specified, two different days having been specified, and he wanted reimbursed for time wasted. Part of his email said that he had called us, but found it impossible to understand the person he spoke to “due to a strong Scottish accent and loud background noise.”
This comment was actually buried further in the email, but as it had not been addressed in the previous reply, I decided to respond to it too. Actually, I was one step away from shouting “Freedom!” while I typed. I joked about calling him racist and offering five Scottish pound notes by way of apology. Instead, I answered professionally. Knowing that my email would be vetted by our proofreaders before sending, I included the following:
“Our call centre is located in Glasgow, and so the majority of us have strong Scottish accents.”
I thought this would be removed or amended, but I heard later from somebodywho got the response to it, and that had been kept in.
The truth is, the background noise is noticeable. Had the complaint just mentioned that, I would have offered twenty quid without blinking. However, by revealing an inherent prejudice, I offered a tenner. I would genuinely have offered just five, except I knew that it would definitely exacerbate things. My reasoning was that the delivery had still come within seven days, as stated.
My accent is fine, it’s your ears that are faulty.
There was somebody else on the phone once. A wee old lady, I could tell. “I think it was you I spoke to before,” she said. “I recognise your accent.”
I resisted the urge to say, deadpan, “You’re probably right. I am the only Scottish person working in our Glasgow call centre. So it probably was me.”
I now realise that, although that line is quite funny when I tell people the story, when it’s coldly written down I just sound like a dick. It’s something I am discovering with my comedy – some things are funnier read, and some are funnier told. It is important to get the medium correct. Please re-read this paragraph aloud, and with your eyes shut.
These tales remind me of the time when I bought the Entombed album “Uprising.” Part of the reason for my purchase, apart from already liking one of their albums, was the inclusion of a track called Scottish Hell.
“What’s that about,” I wondered. “Perhaps they had some bad esperience playing a gig here, or dated some woman who wronged them, or are cursing some whisky-fuelled evening.”
I don’t know about them, but I had a bad experience when they gigged here. Cathedral supported and played a lengthy, boring set. By the time Entombed came onstage, I only saw twenty minutes before I had to get the last bus home. Fucking shite, and they haven’t been back since. That was a little over eleven years ago.
Anyway, as soon as I got home, I skipped straight to that track, digging out the CD’s booklet to read over the lyrics. Are you ready? Here they are, in full:
“Satan kissed my dog/ Cracked his moral shell/ Possessed to wear the kilt/ In his Scottish hell.
I touched your lips your eyes fell out/ On to the floor behind the door/ I picked them up and washed them off /And taped them back upon your face.”
Whatever it might be about, I’m flummoxed. In locating the lyrics online, I now see that it’s actually a cover version too. I’m going to end this blog on a note of utter confusion.
I went into my local library yesterday, looking for a specific book about the First World War. It is part of a well-known and highly-regarded series of history books, and I actually own a copy of it – it just happens to be in storage at the moment. The woman at the desk was very helpful, and advised me that every copy of the book that Glasgow Libraries own is out, overdue, and all but one are missing – taken out and never returned.
While she was searching, the guy left the desk and went to the relevant shelf – six metres away, if that – and looked to see if they had a copy. He came back and said that they didn’t have it, but they did have this book in the same series and about the Second World War, if I’d like that instead.
You know how all wars are interchangeable – historically, geographically, and tactically. The Second World War is just like the First World War, it’s just one number away – they’re practically neighbours. The use of Chlorine Gas that killed soldiers in the first war of attrition is much like the incendiary bombs that killed the civilian population of Dresden, differing only in almost every conceivable detail.
In the end, I left the book on the Second World War and just came back home and watched Braveheart while listening to Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds.” Since we’re not marking any clear distinction between conflicts any more.