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,  …………
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The Woman Upstairs

Immediately above us lived a young couple called Sandra and Nige.  When they first moved in, still unmarried, I wondered how they could possibly be contemplating cementing a relationship which, judging from the frequency and volume of their arguments  (confined mainly to the small hours of the morning and the exercise of a certain adjective beginning with F) was far from idyllic.   But marry they did, and their arguments continued, thus sanctified, though admittedly with a temporary lessening of ferocity. Continue reading

Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning…

Written back in the 1980s, when I was a dedicated teacher of English to Foreigners, and loved my students, I surprised myself one day to realise that I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by too many on an early morning train to London…

Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

The newly-refurbished in flame-coloured plastic
Electronically  motorised doors glide aside
On a languorous blond-headed swarm of blue denim
Strewn on all surfaces:
– surrogate sofas in
Saccharine sugar-free tangerine Perspex
Ergonomically ordered
To cling to your body and stick to your thighs;
Round the concrete containers new-crowded with cyclamen,
Trailing lobelia and silver-tongued ferns;
The Florentine flooring in marble-chip marquetry
Scorch-marked and littered and grimy with ash;
Squatting on shoulder-bags, sprouting from window-sills,
Vibrant with chatter and frenzied with youth… 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

Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

Xenophobia – BBC’s new Mission Statement?  
       (Some names have been omitted to protect the guilty…)

In last night’s transmission of the Eurovision Dance Contest, the BBC sank to new levels of bad taste.
       Over the years the various TV channels have bludgeoned us into expecting, if not accepting, the manifestation of some bizarre belief that the general public is incapable of enjoying anything that is not formulaic, snappy, glitzy, sexy, jokey and smiley.  I might therefore have been prepared for the inanities of the two presenters.  Even so, could someone (a highly-paid BBC producer, perhaps?) not have explained to the gentleman in question (presumably astronomically paid?) that the time delay in receiving transmissions from elsewhere in Europe means that to follow his scripted opening questions with poorly timed colloquial drivel served no purpose other than to make each of the foreign presenters look congenitally stupid? 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