I’ve suddenly had a spate of cold calls. Some bugger has obviously sold my telephone number for ready cash and now they are all piling in.
I do get these occasionally, but I have a patent method of dealing with them. They are usually about double-glazing or kitchens, and the moment the person starts the spiel I say, very politely: ‘May I stop you there? I’m a tenant.’
They can’t get off the telephone quick enough. One gentleman was really nice, roared with laughter, apologised, and said cheerfully: ‘You should not be on this list at all. I’ll make sure you are taken off it.’
‘How kind you are,’ I said, and we had a lovely chat.
Even if you don’t rent, say you do. The callers hate it.
But these new ones are different; they want to maintain my washing machine and do my electricity. They ask all kinds of questions. I fob them off with a variety of vagueness, elaborate courtesy, and apologies. It’s a horrid job, ringing up strangers, and not their fault they work for rotten people.
I think, as I go into the kitchen to make strong coffee: who sits down in a room and says ‘I know. Let’s start up a company where we ring up people who have not given us their number and try to flog them things they don’t need.’ What childhood trauma or lack of love leads to that kind of bleak thinking? It’s fine for me, a minor irritant in a busy day, but if you were someone vulnerable from age or bereavement or illness, living alone, I imagine you could feel beleaguered and besieged. I’ve heard rumours that some of the companies like to target the old, thinking they are a soft mark, and that if you are over seventy you can get as many as five of these calls a day.
There are so many huge horrors in the world: militias and fanatics and dictators. North Korea has been in the news lately and I can hardly read of the misery. But there are a lot of small bads too. This sort of heartless, grasping business model is a daily bad.
It’s no wonder the corporate class is not beloved. I suppose they don’t care, as they come on the radio and spout their empty jargon. Occasionally, you hear a good business person come on and speak like a human and even make a joke and it’s like a flower on a dung heap. What I find so odd is that if you are clever enough to set up a company that works, you are in a position to do good things in the world. You could use your power for good instead of evil.
John Lewis is the shining beacon of this, with happy employees who are invested in the business and go on special John Lewis holidays at their lovely houses in Wales or somewhere. They have the best customer service in the country and sell useful items that people want. (My latest John Lewis delivery was free, and arrived in the north-east of Scotland, an area that makes many carriers purse their lips and suck their teeth, in two days flat.) They are one of the few companies that rode out the recession and they are nearing iconic, national treasure status. If they can do it, why can’t everyone?
Then one reads of Tesco, whose leaders appear to have lied about profits, trashed the company, been famously awful to their suppliers (they make small farmers despair), had a devastating effect on local shops and high streets, and now are walking away from the wreckage with their fat bonuses intact. It’s enough to make screaming lefties of anyone. I’m pretty soft centre-left, but when I read stories like that I want to nationalise the means of production on the spot and start singing the Internationale and break out all my old Billy Bragg albums.
I think a lot about choices. Everyone has choices. I see them in action on the internet. You can be one of those angry people, spreading hate and bile under your assumed screen name, or you can write generous, encouraging comments and share pictures of baby pandas and add to the sum total of human happiness. The old-fashioned grandmothers of a lost generation used to say: it’s nicer to be nice. I know it sounds hopelessly hello sky, hello clouds, and irredeemably weedy wet, but why would you not choose the good?
Amazingly, there actually are some from today.
Here is one of the HorseBack course participants, having her first sit on a horse ever. I’m always incredibly impressed by this. My parents put me on a pony before I can remember having conscious thought, which is another reason the red mare feels like home. I try to imagine how it must feel when every single thing is alien and odd. They were very brave and good, these women:
(Mikey was a sweetheart too. He is one of my favourites in the HorseBack herd, the most affectionate and dear fella, but with a strong character and defined ideas of what he does and does not like.)
The view in the gloaming:
The autumn leaves in my field:
And the autumn horse. She does not really like the summer. She gets too hot and the pollen bothers her. This is her dream time of year. She can get all muddy and furry and not give a damn about anything. It is this time of year that she becomes her most horsey self. She was so happy this morning that I did not ride her, but just worked her on the ground and then hung out with her at the feed shed, chatting to her and scratching her sweet spots and laughing like a drain when she managed to liberate the meadow-herb treats from their barrel, with a look of absolute triumph on her face. When she is in this mood, I like to be near her, to catch the waves of content as they spread from her glorious, powerful body, as if she is emanating joy. Here she is, this afternoon, as the light was starting to fade, coming up for her tea:
I’m not sure I ever loved anything in quite the way I love her. It’s not the biggest love, obviously, because she is not a human. It’s not like the family or the old friends. It is an amazingly simple love, profound and enduring as the earth. It has a lot of astonished gratitude in it. It’s a bright, clean, true love, and it makes me laugh and smile.