Saturday, April 8, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Trouble With England

I find myself arguing with British people all over the globe this morning.  Allow me to explain.  As I continue this WSET Diploma Folly, I have entered a part of the course where the focus is on “still wines”.   To a normal human being reading this like yourself, that means “wine”.  What I have been tasked with are two separate types of activities in readying myself for the June exam.  There is “theory” and “tasting”.  Each one of these is an exercise in academic protocol that I am horribly failing that leads me to lash out at poor unsuspecting Brits not used to my coarse boorish ways. 

Let me take you down this tedious rabbit hole.  Tasting is rather self-explanatory.  I have to taste wines and break down their various components and ultimately harbor an educated guess as to the wine’s identity.  The WSET has a very specific way in which they want you to do this with only certain descriptors allowed.  Weekly I have tasting exercises to complete where I will weigh in on several wines and then submit my conclusions to an email portal.  A few weeks later I receive “feedback” from someone I don’t know that is usually English and has had to just churn through God knows how many clumsily written notes like mine.  It’s hard for me to figure out if the people grading these are cranky at having to do this task or just British.  Either way, it’s like being set down for a scholastic domination session.

On my last set of notes I started the exercise by noting the appearance of a white wine as “Appearance:  Medium lemon”.  This was immediately hit with the red pen.  “Why can’t you write in complete sentences?  How about “This wine appears to be medium lemon”?”  It sort of went downhill from there.  By the time I got halfway through the feedback I felt like I should have been reading it with a ball gag on.   It’s not often you get dominated by email so thoroughly.  I should have been told to report to a dungeon somewhere and trussed up while the woman that graded it read it to me over the phone in her diffident English accent. 

When I had submitted these notes I thought I had done a reasonably good job.  I hadn’t expected to get cigarettes put out on my tongue, so I decided to email the person back and clarify a couple of points.  I wasn’t mad, I just wanted to figure out how to play this game correctly.  Essentially no one is arguing with me about my conclusions, they are extremely unhappy with the way I am writing them though.  So I click on the name to shoot an email back with a couple of questions and the world’s greatest email address pops into my box.  I am going to change her name just so she doesn’t fly over here and hit my scrotum with a cricket bat, but the vibe will be the same so you get my point.  The woman grading the notes was named Victoria Peters.  When I go to send an email back, the email address “Little Miss Peters” fills my screen. 

Look, I can’t help myself.  I begin my email as follows:  “Little Miss Peters, and I hope this is how you prefer to be addressed as this is the email I have been given…”  I don’t know why I thought someone that had humorlessly eviscerated the form of my tasting notes would laugh at that.  She didn’t.  In fact she very quickly responded to my email with the first line saying “My name is Victoria”.  Uh-oh.  She then told me to read the instruction manual again “as it is really quite clear”.  I was dismissed very efficiently.  Good day sir!  This is when I made my second mistake of the afternoon.

In attempting to smooth the waters with Little Miss Peters, I noted to her in my email response that if my email address came up as “Big Kahuna 1”, then I feel that I am open to having to address the occasional person calling me “Big Kahuna”.  In fact, I would be a bit disappointed if people didn’t refer to me as “Big Kahuna”.  Look, it’s not like she was randomly assigned the email address of “Little Miss Peters”.  It’s not me that is stoking some sort of “Lady Chatterly’s Lovers’ dominatrix scene.  She is the one sending me emails as “Little Miss Peters”.  I’m just a guy not writing out that a wine is medium lemon in color.  In conclusion I hoped she wasn’t too bent out of shape about it as I was still coming down off a two week binge of cough syrup, espresso and whiskey.  She has not responded.  I feel certain she has reported me to some British Wine Authority.  

This going on my British Educational Permanent Record would be unfortunate as I am also arguing with someone about the theory portion of these exams.  This WSET experience has been great learning about wine.  I have a staggering amount of knowledge now.  The WSET is very eager to educate and they have a clear vision about how they want to do it.  Unfortunately that vision is a very stiff British manner.  I am so American, iconoclastic and resistant to authority figures of any kind.  It’s a really bad match between us.  It is often Theater of the Absurd.  They absolutely love asking vague test questions and then get completely bent out of shape when no one answers them in the way they had hoped.  For example, it is very common to get a question along the lines of “Discuss the use of guitar in music”.  You have to look at this question and then work through the 46 ways you could correctly answer it to try to figure out what you think they want to hear in the 30 minutes of allotted time.   Then you write out “guitar is the lead instrument in most rock bands and sometimes jazz, there’s electric and acoustic and sometime classical guitar and, and, and”.  Three months later this “examiner’s report” comes out and is filled with bluster like “candidates hovered towards the edge of displaying brain damage by failing the guitar question en masse.  Almost none of these cretins even mentioned Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” or the use of electric bass guitar!  It is hard to believe they can feed and clothe themselves.  Their failure was total.  A dismal pass rate of 11%”.

Now if I was the one writing a test that no one is passing despite having gone through the education that you had specifically set up to pass said test, I would think, “Maybe I’m not being very clear in the questions I’m asking if no one can seem to provide the answer I am looking for…”.  What do I know?  I will be honest.  I never have any fucking idea about what they are really asking me.  I just flamed out on one online where the questions was “Discuss whether New Zealand sauvignon blanc is guaranteed to have a future as a premium wine”.  I look at that and say “Bro, there are no guarantees in business.  Ever heard of MySpace?  Stroh’s?  Typewriters?  People might start digging malt liquor and think sauvignon blanc causes cancer because Breitbart News starts running articles.  Even if that doesn’t happen, the Chileans are undercutting those Kiwis with the same basic product.  Those guys better figure out how to move their price from $12 to $30 because there’s an ocean of wine out there man.”  Meanwhile the response I get was “It’s not whether New Zealand sauvignon blanc is guaranteed to have a future, it’s whether New Zealand sauvignon blanc has a guaranteed future”.  Umm.  What?     

So I really am tasked with two tests.  I need to learn an impossible amount about wine in the next two months.  I also need to figure out how to play this “Simon Sez” game much better than I do now.  I’m a guy trying to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker while sitting at the high rollers table at the Bellagio at 330am on Saturday.  I need to get a stiff cup of coffee and read a rule book.  It’s not the dealer’s fault I don’t know how to play.  It’s my fault.  I just went in assuming I’d pick it up as it went along.  Damn was I wrong.  Meanwhile I have one out of every three British women pissed off at me because of my wildly inappropriate and casual writing style.  Don’t even ask me about my response to the woman that told me I’d get an answer to a question I’d asked “in due course”.  That went very poorly all around and I think left bad feelings.  Not with me so much as with England.  The entire nation.  Oh well, back at it, eh Guv’nor?   


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home