Diary

England’s hat

23 September 2008 | Diary

“Hello there,” I said, trite as a thanksgiving turkey, “I’m calling from Scotland and I’m hoping to spend a few nights in your hotel next month.”

The girl at the front desk of the Toronto Renaissance seemed very excited to receive a call from Scotland. You would think that an international transitional space such as a hotel front desk would allow for such exchanges quite frequently but the girl said, “Oh wow!”

“Say, what time is it in Toronto?”
“Eight thirty in the morning.”
“Oh yes. You’re five hours in the past. Don’t worry. I won’t spoil anything.”

I could hear her blushing down the phone.

Alas I was destined to disappoint. I am not Scottish.

In fact, I was affecting an English accent so astonishingly Attenborough that the girl could surely smell the crumpets over the line.

Why the affectation? Stay with me.

Every so often, I like to book myself a suite in a five-star hotel. Why shouldn’t I? I can both afford it and deserve it. Unlike some people, eh, fatso? Don’t complain. You should have worked harder.

Much like any other ghastly pleb, I make the most of the facilities while I’m there. I’ll order an entire wedding cake from room service at 4am and eat it in the bath while punching a solid gold prostitute.

Nonetheless, such decadence always results in a liberal guilt kicking in. Like a nagging child it pulls at my pinafore strings, mysteriously even on those rare occasions I’ve neglected to wear a pinafore.

You know how it is. Phantom pinafore string syndrome.

I feel like a horrible fraud when I’m talking to the staff at these places and I become paranoid that the receptionist will sense from my bad teeth a working class childhood and immediately sound the alarm.

“Intruder! There’s an intruder amongst us!”. An army of bellhops will wrestle me to the ground and a doorman will escort me to an awaiting windowless van which will drive me off to a forced labour camp before I’ve even had chance to pocket the complementary soap.

It is out of this fear that I always find myself wearing my best suit when on the phone to these people and affecting a ludicrous Hugh Grant voice.

I knew that “calling from Scotland” would be the key to getting the receptionist on my side today. An expert fraudster, it was all part of my ploy for getting her to love me and to not sound the Phony Alarm.

Canadians love Scotland. Canadian scientists even tried to clone Scotland under lab conditions, in the highly controversial Nova Scotia project. Alas they failed to recreate deep-fried mars bars to an authentic standard and simply no one would believe in the cloned Scotland. “Ontologically identical” was their claim but the proof was in the pudding.

Nobody wants to wear a Canadian tartan either: it’s certainly patriotic incorporating a maple leaf or a moose head into the weave but nobody’s going to wear it.

Why such kinship between our two peoples? It is because Canada is America’s Scotland: both are substantial northern chunks of continents but both are overlooked by arrogant southerners who all too willingly dismiss an entire nation of people as their own country’s fancy hat.

Maybe our tourist boards should sort that out. Next time they want to come up with a promotional tagline for the country they should consider:

“Scotland: it’s England’s hat”.



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