The letter was received this week (i.e. the second week in May) from the HMRC. I had mentioned a long time ago that they had insisted that the Scottish Pensions Agency had sent them a P45 form regarding my pension payments, something the SPPA strenuously denied. Before putting the matter in the hands of an expensive accountant, I wrote to ask if someone in the vaults of the HMRC building could sort this out.
Their letter in response begins: 'This is in reply to your letter of 16/11/22. I apologise for the delay in replying'. Well, it's only six months after all! I thought this could be a record for a reply – but no, a friend with similar issues had their response this week to a missive sent off in October. My letter contained three paragraphs of unintelligible gobbledegook, ending: 'I hope this clarifies matters'.
I'm now just wondering if I should waste time responding to this with 'No it doesn't!' Maybe life is too short!
Toujours la politesse
Having narrowly avoided this week collision with several bad – and bad tempered – motorists who expected me to get out of their way regardless, I wondered if any were old enough to remember those 'public information' adverts that the early TV channels used to show. It's one of the useless things I remember quite well, when useful things like where I put my car keys seem to leave my memory very rapidly. Being a hypochondriac child, I didn't like the one that advised 'if you are ill and there's no-one to replace you in the kitchen…'. I can't remember what you were supposed to do if you were so afflicted, but the implication was that housewives were supposed to keep calm and carry on even when afflicted with galloping influenza. Less alarming was the one with the two chaps approaching a road junction who raised their trilby hats in unison while chanting 'After you
!' These were more gracious times, it seems.
But my favourite was the one that showed a lady in her nightie running out and rescuing her cat from dashing under the wheels of a lorry, while the lorry driver sang: 'We say, it don't matter to us/ As long as you're conspicuous/ Make sure it's something light you wear/ We like to see you there!' And the refrain went: 'Be safe, be bright, wear something light/ Wear something light at night!'
Even at the age of 10 or so, I remember being very impressed by the rhyme 'to us/ conspicuous' – who could not be impressed with such poetic sophistication, especially coming from a lorry driver? Alas apart from the Checkatrade.com ad with its classical references, there are few witty adverts on the TV nowadays – and certainly no 'public information' ones.
Plus ca change
My new village, K, has long produced a monthly newsletter, a labour of love for the two ladies who produce it, as they have to battle with the (to my mind) counter intuitive Publisher package, and a couple of ancient computers whose prima donna behaviour makes my granddaughter seem positively equable. I know this as I have offered to help them, although I fear my ignorance is often more of a hindrance. Next month is the 500th edition since 1976 and we looked for comments from long-standing residents about how much – or not – the village had changed since 1976.
Apparently there was sufficient vandalism then to eventually close both sets of public toilets, currently one of my 'bees in the bonnet' as I suspect this was an excuse to save on the wages of an attendant, but that's another peeve that I will explore at a later date. Then as now, there wasn't too much for young people to do – although there was a youth club, it probably wasn't seen as cool even in 1976. There was news of funding for a purpose built Academy, although one elderly lady proposed that its site – on top of a sand quarry – not only robbed the local young people of a beloved play area, but also deprived local wild life – including hares – of a habitat where they had flourished. I hope that today such a decision would have been met with significantly more resistance, for the village now has a very active Green initiative to which many of the residents are committed.
The newsletter was apparently begun as a way of bringing together the existing inhabitants with a new wave of incomers who had come to work in the then developing energy sector. But I'm told that K has always been a place that absorbs 'newbies' so I hope it does the same for me and Freddy.
As I write this, it's the night of the Eurovision Song Contest. I have not watched the event since ABBA won it – this was also around 1976 I guess. I remember thinking 'that song nails it!' and I adored their costumes, a style I enthusiastically adopted and still would, except that what would have looked cute on a 20-something would not now be a good look for me. (For what it's worth, I also thought Boy George's make-up was worth imitating – then.)
I do remember the Sandy Shaw win which was okay but not a patch on the Fab Four. I seem to recall that she later retrained as a psychotherapist, and after her win she got locked out of her hotel room and had to sleep on the floor outside – such are the vagaries of fame. I assume Sandy Shaw was a nom de guerre as why would parents called Shaw want to name their child Sandra? Although one of my school teachers years ago claimed to have had a boyfriend called Russell Prout…
In the Brown family, given my daughter in law is Finnish/Estonian and my granddaughter has joint Estonian/British nationality, I have been instructed to vote for those two countries, although I did think the contest used a 'first past the post' system and in any case I can never understand the voting instructions. I wonder if Albania is competing? I do recall the late great Alexis Corner once playing an Albanian folk song called A lambkin has commenced bleating
. I think it contained all sorts of mythical symbolism, which will surely be absent from this Europop fest tonight. However, may the best country win.
Dr Mary Brown is a freelance education consultant