A word of warning to any Essex/London residents going to the United States. You’ll be mistaken for Aussies. You will. Trust me. I have a similar, but disconnected problem. In the US, my Oldham accent marks me as a Liverpudlian. To US ears, I sound like Robert Smith from The Cure. It did get me a discount in a record store in Salt Lake City, so it wasn’t all bad news.

I’m usually very good with accents, but I stumbled a bit this week. Let’s start with the easy mistake to make. Talking to somebody.

‘Your accent. I like accents. May I guess?’

‘Of course,’ she said. You’ll have noticed a lot of my conversations are with women. I like women, and they tend to like me, surprisingly.

‘OK. I’m going for Portuguese.’

She smiled.

‘Sort of. I’m Brazilian.’

‘I was close though. Not a bad guess.’

‘It was OK.’

Then I really cocked up. It’s rare for me to get accents this badly. Bear in mind I nailed Sophie down to Middlesbrough, and even she was impressed by that. But this accent had me on the back foot.

‘Excuse me, but your accent. I’m lost a bit here. I like accents, I like cadences, expressions. I build them into my fiction. May I guess? Don’t be offended if I get it wrong.’

She* smiled and nodded.

‘Hmm. OK. New Zealand. Definitely not an Ocker.’

‘Ocker?’

I now knew now I was way off. Kiwis know about Ockers.

‘Put me out of my misery.’

‘Essex girl, born and bred. I’ve got the blond hair extensions, the nail extensions.’

‘Bugger me. I had you as a definite Kiwi. I’m usually good at this.’

‘You’re not the first.’

*What is it with me and women? It’s not as if I’m a letch.