The Man in the Van…

This was one of the first of my vituperative onslaughts, after my first encounter with tradesmen’s fees in my first basement flat.  
      The faded tissue-paper carbon copies of the correspondence were at the back of a very old file. 
           … And the hourly rate has its own tale to tell…

Dear Mr Xxxxxx,
      I have received your account dated October 31st, 1979, relating to work carried out at the above premises on October 16th, 1979, and feel sure that there must be some simple explanation for the extraordinarily high figure it contains.
      The work took less than two hours to do, and even allowing for labour costs as high as £5.00 per hour, it would be hard to imagine how a basic figure as excessive as £20.00 could be arrived at.  Perhaps there was a typing error and the figure was intended to be £10.00 – still considerable, but rather more reasonable as a price.
      I look forward to having clarification from you about this, and thank you in anticipation.
Yours faithfully,  …………
Continue reading

Racist remark on Radio 4?

March 20th, 1982

To the Director General of the BBC

I am writing to protest at the racist content of a remark made by one of the presenters of the Today programme on Wednesday March 17th.

The remark in question followed an item on the medicinal use of leeches

The presenter claimed to have been told that anyone who had seen the film “The African Queen” – which he had not done, as he had not been to the cinema for the last 35 years – “would have seen a number of large, black, slug-like objects;  you might also have seen some leeches…” pause for laughter from his colleague.

I am aware that degrading innuendo of this kind is considered fair currency among the ignorant and the insensitive;  I am aware that in objecting to it I am opening myself to charges of obsessiveness;  but until that moment I had shared a naïve belief in the underlying Good Nature of the BBC as an institution, and was physically and emotionally shaken to hear such a sinister slur being given its sanction.  Continue reading

Re. Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

My original reaction to the screening of this show in 2008 appears under Reviews.
This is the letter I wrote in response to a reply from Ofcom:

Dear Ofcom,
      I was interested to receive your reply, and glad to know that so many other viewers had complained about the xenophobic commentary to the Eurovision Dance contest that you had viewed the programme to investigate the attitudes it embodied. Continue reading

Graduation Photos

Dear Sirs,
      I am writing to complain at the colour reproduction in my Graduation Photographs, Ref. number xxxx.   The turquoise blue of the Open University gown bears very little resemblance to the reality, having emerged as a dull beige.  I enclose a copy of the re-order form.
      As you will be well aware, a graduation is a one-off occasion, and the money spent is considerable.  It is consequently highly unsatisfactory that the sole record of this event should be impaired in this way. 
      I should therefore be grateful if you would undertake to replace the photos with ones of a more satisfactory tonal quality.  As soon as you advise me that this is possible, I will post the photo pack back to you. 
      I look forward to your early reply, and thank you in anticipation.
            Yours faithfully, …………. Continue reading

Erroneous Phone charges

Dear BT,
Premium Rate Service/International MODEM
      I am writing in response to your letter, which while it explains some of the reasons for the illicit charges featuring on my May and June bills, does not excuse them, and, more importantly, does not undertake to refund them.

      I note that you have ‘gained agreement from the regulator to bar access to diallers once they are seen to be acting outside of the guidelines’.  This is encouraging, but I would like to: Continue reading