A hundred years ago, England was an industrial powerhouse. Our engineering was world class, with Germany our most serious competitor, and the products churned out by the endless supply of factories were generally of an enviable quality. People worked hard for long hours, took pride in their work, and kept the country rolling.
Today things are very different. The majority of those industries have dried up, the factories closed, steelworks, mining etc all culled and replaced by cheap foreign imports.
Regardless of the environmental impact, it's cheaper for a British company to have their products built in China and shipped halfway around the world than having them made in this country, because the pennies are all that matter to the corporate bean-counters. It's shameful.
So what's left? Car manufacturing is now down to a handful of small volume companies like Morgan and Ariel, apart from the slightly confusing presence of factories making certain Nissan and Honda vehicles.
Aside from the seriously depleted manufacturing industry and an endless supply of shops that mostly (judging by the average city centre) sell either women's clothes or mobile phones, it's hard to see where a large portion of individuals are actually employed.
The answer is the service industry. Those paid to give the illusion that you're being cared for by a company that makes so much money that they can afford to pay people to convince you to keep coming back to give them even more.
Here we arrive at the subject of today's gripe - the special twisted variation of the English language employed by customer services workers in this country.
For a long time it was a matter of dread that you'd need to phone customer services because you knew there was a 95 percent chance you'd end up trying to decipher the jabberings of a bloke called Raj in Bombay.
The consumer backlash over this situation has led to most call centres being UK based which has helped immensely, apart from the UK also including accents such as Glaswegian to throw you off your game. For the most part though, the feeling of impending doom when you dial the number for customer services is pretty minimal these days.
Or at least it was...
Over the last couple of years there has emerged a new and disturbing trend of twisting the English language about, presumably in a vain attempt at sounding intelligent and professional.
For example, what's with this insistence in using the word 'yourself' instead of 'you'?
"Is everything alright for yourself?" It was until you opened your stupid mouth and said that.
Yourself...... If your kid falls over you might say "Oh dear, did you hurt yourself?", and that's fine.
If you go to a barbecue at a friend's house they might say "Help yourself to a beer", and that too is perfectly acceptable.
However, "Is there anything else I can do for yourself?" is most definitely not acceptable. It's an abomination that would have Dickens turning in his grave.
It's not just 'yourself' that I'm ranting about here, but what seems to have become the holy trinity of customer services workers across the country - 'Yourself', 'Today', and 'At all'.
The greatest goal seems to be to employ all three in a single sentence. For example, "Is there anything else I can do for yourself at all today?". Wouldn't it be so much easier (not to mention better English) to simply say "Is there anything else I can do for you?". Not only are the additional bits unnecessary padding, like large chunks of the last Harry Potter book, but they also make the speaker sound as stupid as poking a crocodile with a stick.
What's with the 'at all'? It's completely redundant and serves no purpose other than to infuriate the listener. The 'today' is also utterly pointless - of course we're talking about today. Today, right now, is when we're having this conversation so we're hardly going to discuss what you could have done for me yesterday because it's too late, and tomorrow hasn't happened yet. If I need your assistance at a later date I'll call you then, except I might not bother because you talk such bollocks.
You hear this everywhere, from banks and insurance companies to coffee shops and takeaways, and it needs to stop.
I had a phone call yesterday from a customer services bloke at AO.com who was very nice but still managed to abuse the English language in this manner several times within the space of about five minutes. Interestingly, while trying unsuccessfully to get me to take out the usual insurance cover, he displayed an impressive ability to talk very fast for an extensive period without actually drawing breath. Probably yet another ploy to confuse the unwary into signing up for something they didn't want by making them agree just to shut the bugger up.
As I said, a nice enough bloke and genuinely helpful once you discounted the marketing bullshit, but I still couldn't shake the idea that once the call had ended, he was putting up a bunch of gold and silver stars next to his name on a big chart in the office. A silver for using any one of the trinity individually, and a gold for getting all three in the same sentence. There's probably a bottle of bubbly for the winner each week and at the end of the year the overall winner gets an engraved plastic trophy and a holiday for two in Magaluf.
There must be something in it for those who are so determined to wreck the English language, otherwise why would they do it?