Sunday, 2 November 2014
Hooptedoodle #152 - Spooks & Villains
Casual post, carefully timed to be not-quite-seasonal, as behoves one who is not-quite-on-the-ball.
Hallowe'en is an odd one for me - I have a vague understanding that the traditional festival is the night when the souls of the departed get up for a bit of a boogie around the churchyard, but it's all become very confused with the American Trick or Treat thing, not to mention Guy Fawkes. The gift and greeting card and party-gear industries have climbed all over this, naturally, and left us with a strange, pseudo-gothic hotch-potch whose main theme seems to be extraction of money with menaces by kids dressed in ready-made outfits, the royalties for which will go straight into the coffers of a predictable, short list of American film and TV companies. Of course, the kids still enjoy it, however the tradition may have slipped, which is the most important point.
So that's all right then. In fact, things have moved on a bit here - I have been known to do the Uncle Scrooge bit, turning off the lights at the front of the house on Hallowe'en, in the hope that the local kids would pass by (believing I was out, or even dead), but the local kids have mostly grown up now, and would not choose to waste their time coming here anyway if they hadn't. The ancient Scottish tradition of "Guising" - when children dress up as dead people and ask for money (an activity which is now mostly carried out by the government, come to think of it) - has largely been subsumed by Trick or Treat and fund-raising for fireworks. A tradition of any sort may be better than no tradition at all, I suppose, but I am waiting suspiciously for an official, copyrighted, Christmas cartoon image of the Infant Jesus to emerge from the Disney empire quite soon.
On the wildlife front, the unusual summer has brought us unprecedented numbers and sizes of butterflies, an astonishing display of toadstools on the front lawn, and all sorts of wonders. One recent discovery has been the identity of the mystery chewer of our plum tree - here he is, trespassing...
Villains on a different scale altogether are still all around us. A couple of days ago my phone rang, and a gentleman introduced himself, representing a market research organisation who, it seems, have been hired by the Royal Bank of Scotland to get feedback from their customers. If I had 15 to 20 minutes, he said, he would be delighted to discuss the matter with me.
I try not to be impolite on such occasions, since the poor man is only doing his job, but it occurred to me that
(1) the market research organisation may be a wholly-owned subsidiary of RBS.
(2) I did not have 15 minutes to talk to him.
(3) anything genuine which I had to suggest to him about RBS and their operation would not fit with his list of questions or interesting themes - and since this reduces the whole exercise to the sort of self-promotion and lie engineering which we might expect, I became a little terse.
I told the fellow that I did not really have time to speak with him, but would he please take careful note that it is some years since I had any dealings with RBS, and I do not wish to be contacted by them again until I say so. In short, I said (without swearing - I must get some credit for that), I am not a customer, and this is because all my family's business was taken away from RBS and placed elsewhere, entirely because they demonstrated to us repeatedly that they were the most stupid, error-prone, unhelpful, self-obsessed organisation we have ever had dealings with. Are you writing this down?
"Well, sir," he replied, "you are, of course, entitled to your opinion."
And there the conversation ended, though I am sure they will be back. Just a flaming minute - I am entitled to my opinion? Is that not, in fact, exactly the pretence under which they were attempting to get me to play along with their customer feedback in the first place? Do I actually require RBS, or their hired help, to tell me that I have such an entitlement? Does their conceit have no limits?
Next year, dress your kids up as RBS officials on October 31st, and send them out to sell your neighbours loan repayment insurance, or house insurance, or savings accounts which yield very little apart from inconvenience and regular irritation. That should scare the bejesus out of them.