The accent of the English West Midlands is the universal signifier of stupidity. You can parachute a West Midlander into the bazaars of Yesilkoy or the frozen wastes of Alaska and they will instantly know he is a tit as soon as he asks the way to the beach, loike. It’s the downward intonation at the end of the sentence that does it. There is little melody or fluidity in the accent – little variation from the beginning note. It is the voice of existential ennui and the unbelievably insulting ‘Woi Wanna Bee Twogethurr’ Prudentianl advert where Brummie Uncle Tom Mark Williams gurns over his Scouse (and therefore socially acceptable) girlfriend.
"The accent of the English West Midlands is the universal signifier of stupidity."
For the purposes of this piece the entire West Midlands is Brummie. Anybody questioning this can eat a dick. I don’t give two fucks about your Carl Chinn I-wish-I-had-me-some-clothes local studies pedantry. Biatches.
Despite being born and raised in the deepest ghettoes in Birmingham I was spared the curse of the Brummie accent. When Aerial Telly opens his mouth to speak it’s like he’s channelling Orson Welles only I don’t be speaking on Alien Invasionand Bird’s Eye Peas – I be kicking mad knowledge about the TV and shit. Yet when I was in Spain my friend was cruelly ridiculed by the Spaniels for his mangled vowels and dropped aitches. I fucking hate Spaniels – they’re so racist.
“Bill Nighy’s barely credulous voice-over begins each show with a Hart to Hart style intro.”
But who am I kidding? The reason we’re thought of as hopelessly incompetent is because we are. I reached this conclusion during the first episode of The Armstrongs BBC2’s documentary on John and Anne Armstrong, commandants of Coventry’s third largest double-glazing outfit U-Fit.
Bill Nighy’s barely credulous voice-over begins each show with a Hart to Hart style intro "10 years ago John Armstrong and Anne met and and it was an instant attraction. Joining forces in marriage and business, they set out to become multi-millionaires." ("And when they met it was moider!")
"The lazy, incompetent demotivated sales staff are using their phones for only 30 minutes. I spend longer than that a-day just telling people to fuck off."
Things are not good at U-Fit. The lazy, incompetent, demotivated sales staff are using their phones for only 30 minutes a day. I spend longer than that just telling people to fuck off.
As a result Anne has developed an expensive addiction to business consultants. John is less enthusiastic.
“John plays with a curmudgeonly straight bat throughout baffling the boy with an increasingly bizarre set of bicycle analogies.”
One dynamic thrusting Apprentice scum pitches his £500 a-day consultancy wares to the pair like his life depended on it but John plays with a curmudgeonly straight bat throughout baffling the boy with an increasingly bizarre set of bicycle analogies. "You’re trying to put the tyre on the rim, and we haven’t even got the spokes in yet,".
Consultant boy confesses his confusion and John expounds "What was was, and now what is is. And is tomorrow a new day? Yes it is."
The guru admits defeat, conceding that £500 a-day is not worth another Tour de France tour-de-force from John. The squat bespectacled grumpypuss is yin to Anne’s irrepressible yang – with her wholly uninfectious enthusiasm and v-shaped smiles.
Not being easily defeated, Anne persists with her consultant fetish and drafts in Basil Meanie a horrendous Zimbabwean business guru – a cross between Alan Freeman and PW Botha. Basil specialises in meaningless aphorisms and the type of management-speak drivel that’s driven many a happy worker to suicide.
"Basil’s bête noire is new recruit Michael, a dorky contrarian who lives a double life as the world Othello champion ("a minute to learn, a lifetime to masturbate")."
Basil’s bête noire is new recruit Michael, a dorky contrarian who lives a double life as the world Othello champion ("a minute to learn, a lifetime to masturbate"). Michael sees through Basil’s cheeseball quackery and it royally pisses Basil off "You know under apartheid they used to KILL kaffirs like that!" is something a totally unrelated and NOT Basil businesses guru may have said in a totally unrelated situation.
“We need a Hoover really, well we’ve got a Hoover, we need some cunt to push it up and down the carpet.”
The net result of Basil’s expensive investigations is sweet fuck all apart from a gigantic bill to be footed by U-Fit. It has long been John’s contention that he can do the business consultancy work himself. And, to be fair, he has the skill of condensing complex truths into motivational one-liners down to a fine art. John on the problems of recruiting domestic staff:
"We need a Hoover really, well we’ve got a Hoover, we need some cunt to push it up and down the carpet"
And that jerk-off Anthony Robbins has the nerve to call himself a guru. Go figure.
"John helpfully talking English in a faltering French accent, sounding like the English policeman from ‘Allo ‘Allo.."
But it’s not just soundbites he provides. John comes up with the idea of Selling Windows to the French, even though neither he nor his wife speak a word of the language. They drive 800 miles down to the south of France and wow a French windows company with John helpfully talking English in a faltering French accent, sounding like the English policeman from ‘Allo ‘Allo.
John puts his trust in an Internet translation website to translate his sales pitch into French. If you’ve ever seen the results of an Internet translation website then you know you’d be better off sending a shit pie with Fuck Off Frenchie inscribed into the crust and a hairbrush ridden with pubic louse as sweeteners for the deal as nothing makes you look and sound like a turd to a foreigner like Babelfish.
“…you’d be better off sending a shit pie with Fuck Off Frenchie inscribed into the crust and a hairbrush ridden with pubic louse.”
The trip didn’t start well with one of their van drivers backing into John’s Jag and tearing a hole in the rear end. After a verbal smackdown from Anne, Van the Man resigns.
"Fucking good," says Anne "Let him go, we don’t need wankers like that – we’ve got enough other ones". There are actually several recruitment agencies in the West Midlands
specialising in wankers. The Thomson Local has an entire section devoted to them.
The Armstrongs is mesmeric television. Partly because everybody has worked in a place kind of like U-Fit but John and Anne really are unique – a weird, bizarre curio who effortlessly provide comedy gold and pathos by surrounding themselves with people even less competent than themselves.
"There’s a mutually assured mediocrity that allows them to survive in a symbiotic relationship that John Lennon envisioned when he wrote Imagine."
The West Midlands has an entire economy made up of companies like this. There’s a mutually assured mediocrity that allows them to survive in a symbiotic relationship that John Lennon envisioned when he wrote Imagine. Or possibly it was I Am The Walrus or the one about sticking it to Yoko. The central point is don’t fear what you don’t understand. Some things defy comprehension. All you can do is point and laugh until you cry.
And there will be tears.
The best thing about it: John’s daily analogy Olympics
The worst thing about it: Basil Meanie – anthrax in human form.
The verdict on The Armstrongs : The kids are orroight.
Marks out of 10: 8