Recently, telling myself I must cure my allergy to the banal language employed by the Church of England these days, I went to a service in a local Norman church. The visiting preacher was a grey-haired woman. Her soporiferous sermon induced instant lethargy until she gave a sudden shriek. ‘…and God went WOW!’ she shouted, and repeated this dubious claim twice. Incomprehension skittered among the congregation of six elderly ladies. I suppose the preacher believed that, if she used contemporary colloquial language, the picture she was trying to conjure of a recognisable God would be easier for us to imagine than if she used the language of the King James Bible. Her mistake was not to have checked out the general age of her listeners. They knew ‘Wow!’ had never come into the Bible. It was not a convincing picture of the Almighty. No wonder they looked affronted.
This week eight requests for money for charity came through the post. Most weeks it’s four or five. Like thousands of others, I’m faced with a dilemma. Should I send a few pounds to all of them, or a larger sum to my chosen few? I’ve become quite fierce in my decisions. Those who send me a long case history, in pretend handwriting, get nothing. Nor do those who send plastic biros, or a 1p coin sellotaped to their request. It must cost precious funds buying useless biros, and what a waste of time gathering and sticking coins. And now there is a new lot who are off my cheque list: those to whom I have already sent a contribution, who then follow it up within the week asking for more. My own list remains unchanging: The Q Trust, CPRE, the Woodland Trust, the British Legion. That leaves room for a few extra seasonal ones. But the guilt of not responding to all of them never quite goes away. How do others solve this problem?
Iread that, according to research, saying ‘thank you’ may be dying out. Other words like ‘ta’ and ‘cool’ and ‘nice one’ are apparently the new expressions of gratitude. Well, I’ve been getting increasingly beady about giving presents that never inspire a thank-you of any kind. In fact I’ve decided that all those who don’t bother to write won’t be getting any more. Research also shows that 95 per cent of the population still believe in good manners, though it’s quite hard to agree with that. I was very fierce with my daughters about the necessity of thank-you letters: in the end they came to think of them as an
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enjoyable challenge. One daughter was equally fierce with her three sons: if the letters weren’t good enough she tore them up and made them start again. Now, they get thank-yous for their thank-yous… Recently I told those grandsons that ‘thank you very much’ was a boring way of starting a letter, and they should come up with something better. Their hilarious solutions, I hope, will carry on through their lives.
Sympathetic though I am to all those shops forced to close, I can’t help thinking that some of them might be saved if they made an effort to display their stuff more appealingly. The heart seems to have gone out of the people who decide such matters. In a lastditch attempt, I daresay, to sell as much as possible, far too many clothes are jammed together, impossible to see or to pull off the rack. Are the chain stores trying harder? M&S continues its usual careless jumble of clashing colours. The clothes department of a large Tesco store is like a third-world market: dark, appallingly untidy, clothes left all over the floor by customers who don’t care. Some unemployed student with an eye for design should suggest a plan to tidy up such grim departments — though I suppose a letter to Head Office, in these days of endless no-response, wouldn’t get so much as a ‘nice one’ in reply.
There is one area in which David Cameron and Nick Clegg are in definite agreement: ties. Always plain, always dark, though Clegg does occasionally blaze out into yellow. Is this a strategy to convey something? Seriousness, perhaps. That might be it, because Obama joined them when he was over here earlier in the year. But if tie-spotters want a bit of fun, David Dimbleby is their man: his ties are bright, wild, jungle-like. The one with the huge red spider may be a nightmare for arachnophobics, but in these dark days they are a light relief for the rest of us.
Angela Huth is a writer and journalist; her most recent novel, Once a Land Girl, is a sequel to her bestselling Land Girls.
the spectator | 10 December 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk nigel_spec_10.12_2.indd 1