Keith the Bull Terrier from the Creature Comforts animated series. Picture courtesy of Aardman Animation Ltd.
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"Can you replay that last bit, after 'social occasion' please?", I repeated searching for syntactical possibilities.
Cow: "...people can parade their cows, parade their..."
"People can parade their cows...", I informed my friend, not entirely sure if this was what the cow said.
"Is it an animation called Creature Comforts?" I enquired, prompted by the strong English, west-country accent I heard while my friend held her end of the phone to the TV speaker. I'd only been told that it was a British cartoon of sorts and by the documentary style answer I heard over the receiver, it had had to be Creature Comforts. As the thick jawy-chews of a Devon farmer grinded a list of fun and frolics to had at a country fair, it dawned on me as to why I was asked for help.
For those that don't... Nick Park's award-winning Creature Comforts is an animated series melding hand-modeled animals, anthropomorphised with unsuspecting, topical Q&A from various quirky sorts, dug up from the fertile grounds of Great Britain. This package of in-house jokes, regional-pokery and industrial-strength dialect laced with compounded-slang, is strictly a British affair and not for export. My friend and I had grossly underestimated the help I would need to provide in transcribing the series for latter translation and eventual airtime for the Iranian viewing-public. My casual arrangement of telephone-help would not be suffice, the 10-minutes of phone-to-speaker, phone-to-ear then hand-to-paper seemed nearly as labourious as probably was for Mr. Park to thumb the mouths at his avatar-zoo.
Stop, write, play, rewind, play and listen. Stop, play, rewind, play. I cursed LG for creating a video player without pauseStop, write, play, rewind, play and listen. Stop, play, rewind, play. I cursed LG for creating a video player without pause and not to mention the irritating 2-second silence after hitting play. Stop, write, play, rewind, play and listen. "Daveed, what are they saying?", interrupted my cousin, speaking over the Scouse mouse. Stop, play, rewind, play. "How much are they paying you for this?", my cousin asked, interrupting the Scouse mouse again. Having only one night to do the series, I'd made arrangements for the video cassette to be taxied to me at my uncle's in Tehran where my long overdue visit was to be rudely shoved to the side. Upon arrival of the cassette, I was surprised to find that my friend had even gone to the effort of sending a video player also – it all seemed rather convenient and might have been more so if we'd had a DVD with subtitles.
Seagull one: "Somebody is trying to send me signals..."
Seagull two: "Yes, yes..."
Seagull three: "We haven't heard it for a while"
Seagull one: "I like the sound"
Seagull two: "The one you were listening to... to the pigeon"
Seagull one: "No that's not..."
Three Geordie seagulls, all speaking over one another – I struggled to understand the words, let alone the topic. "This stuff barely makes sense in English and is partly where the humour derives from", I remarked to my friend, concerned about my accuracy. "Don't worry about it, most of it will be taken out and new scripts made", she laughed – "Bits where they mention girlfriends for example". The repeated casual blasphemy that padded exclamations, the references to alcohol and the mockery of the establishment were things I noted. On top of these necessary edits, the cultural references, slang and subtle word-play were also not going to survive. What is to remain? What is to replace this? And, why therefore, is a transcript needed at all? Good-old family entertainment back home is just not wholesome enough for this new audience.
Crow one: "Frank Spencer"
Crow two: [Frank Spencer impression attempt] "Benny I have a trouble, the cat's just done a whoopsy in my beret"
Crow three: "We can all do a Frank Spencer"
Crow one: "I can do a Victor Meldrew as well"
Crow three: "Go on then"
Crow one: "But I haven't done him for a while, [Victor Meldrew impression attempt] 'I don't believe it, what in the bloody hell do you think you're doing, for god's sake I don't bloody believe it'"
Crow two: "Well thats... Victor Meldrew, no"
Crow one: "Yes"
Crow two: "No"
Crow one: "Yes"
Crow two: [Victor Meldrew impression attempt] "I don't believe it" [laughter]
Both the translation and transcript earns one 500-tomans (around £0.30) for each minute of footage. My transcript alone was taking me, at best, 1-hour for 5-minutes of footage mostly due to the speech overlap, heavy dialogue and those bloody Geordie female muscle characters. I was offered 100-minutes of transcription per week meaning 20-hours of work for what should turn out as 50,000-toman (around £30.00) assuming I translated it also. I was doing this as a favour to a friend – thanks, but no thanks, my career in transcription is officially over.
Bull Terrier one: "And what do you mean by that kind sir?"
Bull Terrier two: "What do you mean substance, substance, what is a substance?"
Bull Terrier one: "Subsidence"
Bull Terrier two: "Subsidence"
Bull Terrier one: "Subsidence" [emphasis on change of pronunciation]
Bull Terrier two: "You lean"
Bull Terrier one: "Yeah, I'm lean, I got a leaning problem, yeah"
Bull Terrier two: "No, no he mean, we mean"