It’s fair to say I’ve become a fully-paid-up member of the Batty Old Bird Society (BOBS for short). In a very small step from here I will be going to the shop in my slippers and curlers, coming out with things like “it wasn’t like that in my day” or “kids today don’t know they’re born”. I will reserve the right to drive at 15 mph on the motorway and talk endlessly about varicose veins (not that I’ve got any…yet).
You see, I have become a letter writer. You know the sort of thing. I think it comes from having no money and writing letters, especially by email, is free other than the investment in time to write them. A couple of examples of my recent output are:
1. A letter to the head of marketing at Spurs telling them that it’s a disgrace in the 21st century that they can’t find a supplier of dishwasher-proof mugs. (Reply – platitudes about the highest quality merchandise so no dishwasher-proof mugs will ever darken their doorstep. Huh?????)
2. A letter to Daniel Levy (Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur) telling him that as a lifelong fan and a shareholder I would NOT be happy for him to appoint AVB. I think you will know the response to that one – it went something like blah blah blah comments noted, tough titty.
3. A nice letter to Panasonic telling them that my wonderful bread machine had been the best thing ever in my kitchen, being run 5 times a week for nearly ten years. Reply – gushing thanks as you might imagine.
My MP has not escaped my letters. I’ve now written her two. The first one I wrote last summer suggesting she persuaded her cabinet to lean on retailers to pay dairy farmers a fair price for their milk. I, and all of the early PAD-ers watched in anguish as one of our own (rico101) had the life-blood sucked out of his dairy business, eventually leading to him selling off his herd and planting a biofuel crop instead. I’ve not heard from him in ages but it was a depressing tale of corporate greed. So, with the latest batch of price cuts to farmers I thought I’d had enough of watching this happen and asked her to intervene. Her response was, at the very least, disgraceful. It took three weeks to hear anything. Given that Cornwall is a dairy farming county that shows the degree of seriousness with which she took my letter. The reply didn’t even come from her. It came from a minion whose response was - points noted, we’ll get back to you when we’ve had chance to do something. I heard nothing more, ever.
I googled the minion and found his twitter feed. Honestly, I can’t tell you how horrified I was. It was yard upon yard of hideous hooray henry banter with the occasional dig at a constituent/colleague thrown in. There was also quite a lot of stuff about how lucky the people that are forced to use the local soup kitchen were because the food on offer was “yummy”. Oh please, I’m sure that anyone needing the services of a food kitchen probably doesn’t get the chance to use twitter all that often, but I’m sure if they ever saw that insulting commentary they would, quite rightly want to shove the boy’s Blackberry/Iphone/whatever right where the sun don’t shine. I certainly would. Just what you need in a constituency office worker, empathy. I now know that twitter is a really useful tool for working out the measure of a man. (As you do. Sic.)
My sister (and I cringe at the use of a name-drop like this for many reasons) is quite pally with a Government Minister and she tells me that he responds to every letter from his constituents within 48 hours and given his ministerial duties you’d imagine him to be considerably busier than a back-bench MP.
Therefore I didn’t have high expectations when I wrote again last week. On Friday I wrote to her in the wake of the recent revelations about horse burgers and lasagnes. I must say I don’t care one jot about whether the content of a “beef” lasagne is beef or horse, in any other way that it was purporting to be something it wasn't. In fact, I suspect that once it is “not what it says on the tin” then it wouldn’t surprise me to find it’s rabbit, rat, hell’s teeth, even Alsatian. What concerns me is that the scandal was uncovered by government food inspectors in Ireland.
So, we are a country of 60 million, give or take and relatively “rich” compared to Ireland. They have a population of around 5 million, I think. Yet their food channel “police” picked up the fact that food being shipped to the UK was not what was being declared. Our food inspectors then started to get jumpy and, if my reading between the lines is correct, thought “oh shit we’d better have a look at this". They found more instances. Then the retailers started to squirm and decided also to do a bit of testing, forgive me for my cynicism, so they could control and therefore minimise the negative PR. I can just imagine the CEO of Tesco (or whoever) calling a meeting with his technical people and the PR manager looking for ways to duck out of the way of the shit hitting the fan. Guess what? They found more and more products with horsemeat in and now they’re saying not just horse, donkey too. Surprise, surprise.
What I DO care about is that you can bet your socks that if this is happening to things labelled “beef”, it’s also happening to many other things too. I don’t buy much prepared food but I am deeply suspicious of things labelled vegetarian and would love to see DNA testing for animal DNA on veggie products because I fully expect to find it distressing reading.
The upshot is that I wrote to my MP anticipating a similar level of fob-off as I got last time but this time, within two working days, I had a reply, as you can see. Maybe you have to write two to get noticed and perhaps by four or five they go straight in the bin. Not only that but she (or one of her minions) had gone to the effort of looking me up on the electoral register because the reply was “snail mail” not email. Much better. However, disappointingly the inside contents were almost word-for-word the same as the previous fob-off except that she did say she’d passed my comments on to the relevant Minister.
I wait eagerly to see what happens next.
PS sorry to anyone who’s got this far that today’s picture is yet more metaphorical and real BEIGE.