Mr. Clarke Calls the COVID Helpline

Date: 18th June 2021

The latest blog from our resident writer, Donald Stewart:


NHS 24 have been inundated…

The call handlers are beginning to feel the strain and are close to the wire when a call comes in from one of the most depressing voices this call handler has ever heard.

Picture the scene…

The man on the other end of the line has identified himself as Mr. Clarke.

The call handler is a Ms. Sturgeon.

Mr. Clarke has called to find out at what level he is going to be at in the wee tour he has planned.

Apparently beginning in England, in Durham, it is due to move north and come to Glasgow before it heads down to London and then to Durham before a final trip to Glasgow.

At least that is it for now but Mr. Clarke, despite his deep booming voice of doom, is remaining optimistic.

You could have fooled Ms. Sturgeon because after hearing the stops on this tour is close to asking if it was a trip round funeral parlours – such is the timbre of Mr. Clarke’s voice. But she demurs, draws breath and asks a more polite question, “And what is the purpose of this tour, Mr. Clarke?”

“Purpose?” Mr. Clarke responds. “Purpose?” He repeats.

“I suppose to lift the spirits of an entire nation. To bring joy to all. To shine light in the lives of us all.”

Ms. Sturgeon stifles a laugh and is beginning to wonder if a local nursing home has given the phone to one its less well residents.

Instead, she asks, “And would that entail overnight stays, Mr. Clarke?”

Mr. Clarke, on the other end scowls. Even remotely Ms. Sturgeon can feel the scowl resonating down the telephone wires.

“Aye.” Mr. Clarke is definite about this.

“And would that be on every stop you make, Mr. Clarke?”

“Aye.” Mr. Clarke is even more definite about this.

“And how many would be in your party?” Ms. Sturgeon asks.

“Erm… nearly 40.” Replies Mr. Clarke.

“40?!” Ms. Sturgeon cannot keep the surprise out of her voice.

“Well, I suppose we could leave a couple behind. But it would be better if we didnae.”

Mr. Clarke is already taking his biro to a few of the passengers he could do without – public relations people who make him do things in front of cameras he doeasnae much like, are first tae have a score put through them.

“Let me just check the situation in your first place, which is Durham, am I correct Mr. Clarke?” Ms. Sturgeon asks.

“Aye.” Mr. Clarke is absolutely definite about this.

“There seems to be little issue about being here, Mr. Clarke and you can stay in that part of England for as long as you like. The COVID-19 protocols down south appear to be much more relaxed than in Scotland which makes your Glasgow leg a bit tricky.”

“Isn’t it just, I mean do I take MacGregor or leave him behind and take Gilmour instead?” Mr. Clarke mutters.

“What was that Mr. Clarke? You seem to be breaking up and I can’t quite hear what it is you were saying?” Ms. Sturgeon asks down the crackly line.

“Erm, nothing.” Replies Mr. Clarke.

“Sorry, just checking this for you now.” Ms. Sturgeon responds.

“Did you say Czech there?” Mr. Clarke asks.

“Yes, Mr. Clarke, just checking the data.” Ms. Sturgeon answers with a puzzled look upon her face.

“Have they been asking too?” Mr. Clarke spits down the phone.

“Have who been asking, Mr. Clarke?”

“Thon Czechs?”

“I am not quite sure what you mean Mr. Clarke.”

It is a phrase he had often heard before but now he is in a quandary. Does he stay on the line and then find that his secrets are out, and they know his line up or does he stay and find the vital COVID travel information he needs.

Decisive as ever, he makes a decision.

A threatening Paddington type stare down the phone line is followed by him hitting the off button with some force.

It is off.

He turns to see some expectant faces in tracksuits. He needs to give them a response but his face has confusion all over it.

Actually, it has angry written all over it.

It only ever has angry written all over it.

It makes him look permanently upset at things.

The people in the tracksuits think better of asking any questions.

They just wave and turn muttering, all good gaffer and such like as they scuttle away to spend the rest of their day doing something far more useful…

Mr. Clarke then googles what he needs to know…

The rest as they say, will make history…

We hope…


Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that a Ms. Sturgeon has ever manned a COVID/NHS24 phone line however some discussions must have happened over the issue between the SFA and the Scottish Government involving representatives of a Ms. Sturgeon and of a Mr. Clarke.

Just before the friendly game with the Dutch six players were forced to miss out on the game due to issues around COVID-19 and associated protocols, but the nation now awaits for history to be made. And we all need a certain song…

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