I have reached an age when only irritation prevents me from sinking into somnolence or mental torpor but fortunately there is no shortage of stimuli in the modern world to irritate me. Fortunately also, I enjoy the state of irritation almost as much as that of resentment or righteous indignation. I find it tones me up in the morning a bit like a Turkish bath.
My post is often enough to do it. For example, the other day I received a letter informing me that an organization to which I am more or less professionally obliged to belong had received my annual subscription. It contained the following statements, couched in less than polite terms:
This is not a proof that you are a member of the organization to which you have paid the subscription.This is not a proof of identity. This is not a receipt.
What exactly is it, then? I was reminded of Magritte’s picture: Ceci n’est pas une lettre.
In the same post I received a letter from my solicitor, a firm to which I have for the last twenty years entrusted my small legal affairs, and which seemed to me very solid. I had asked the solicitor to undertake on my behalf a very small legal proceeding which he said would cost £400. The letter was 13 closely-printed pages long, specifying (among other things) various conditions with which I must comply before the solicitor could undertake the work for me. Among these were requirements supposedly to prevent money-laundering. I would have to appear in person at the solicitor’s office with either a valid passport, a full driving licence with photo, or a valid HM Forces identity card, as well as a current utility bill or bank statement to prove residence. ‘Once we have received your ID, it will also be necessary for us to undertake additional on-line identity and address verification for you at a charge of £5.00 plus VAT…’
In return, I received assurances that (inter alia) ‘we shall always be polite and courteous to all, ensure that the office is staffed between 9am and 5pm Mnday to Friday, answer telephone calls promptly, treat everyone fairly and not discriminate against anyone because of his or her race, sex, sexual orientation or disability.’
I sent a few forms off, duly signed, and telephone the solicitor two days later to check that he had received them. The telephone was answered promptly, with a recorded message that the firm had gone into liquidation.