From Bert: May you live in interesting times

18 May

Hello Mum, it’s Bert again,

Well, it’s been my first week as a “subversive” and what a week it has been! I’m sure no-one has cottoned on – they still think that I am “one of them” – or rather “one of theirs” as, of course, someone as low down the pecking order as I am, just a humble driver can’t be one of the important people. You know, sometimes, they just forget that I am even there. Isn’t that useful.

This week, the minds of the “great and good” in the back of the Bentley have been exercised about how they can make it hard for the opposition. Honestly, Mum, before I got this job I actually thought that councillors and officers worked together for the good of the community! How wrong could I have been! It seems that the party in power spends most of the time working out how to keep the others out .

You know that the government isn’t in Parliament at the moment because they have nothing to do? It seems the same here – they seem to have got into a position now where the public can’t speak at meetings unless they have filled in millions of forms and even then if they don’t get them in to the office in time they don’t get acted on, the developers are just hitting the area left, right and centre and mostly can’t be stopped (and if they are it is often because locals raise funds and get themselves fancy barristers and solicitors) so now the councillors have nothing to say or do except work out what pictures they want on their walls.  The ones in the Thelma Hulbert Gallery apparently aren’t good enough and the Royal Albert Museum won’t let them have any so they have gone to the National Gallery to see if they can do some sort of “partnership deal”).  Or they spend a lot of time fighting about what flower arrangements they want in the reception area that no-one visits – well, the developers do pass through it on their way to the Michelin-star restaurant, but no-one else does. Honestly, you should have heard a couple of our top people having a row about whether to put Calla lilies or Old English Roses on the front desk – they almost came to blows. It backfired though: turned out the Calla lilies made everyone sneeze and they dropped pollen on the priceless Persian rugs and mucked up the polished marble floow so it had to be the Old English Roses after all.

At the moment, the big issue is that it seems that the opposition councillors are being reported for all sorts of things and there are special hearings just about every day – I can barely keep up. The problem is that the hearings, things never seem to go quite to plan. Sometimes the people being prosecuted just don’t turn up and everyone is left twiddling their thumbs until they decide what to do next, sometimes it turns out that they haven’t done anything wrong at all and it seems to be the fault of their colleagues who HAVEN’T been reported. Sometimes, the councillors won’t apologise for what they have done or said because, they say, the councillors who are accusing them of things are doing worse things themselves but not getting reported. Sometimes, even when they are found guilty they then don’t get any punishment and it turns out that is because “we can’t punish them because they were speaking on behalf of the people”. I confess myself totally confused: it’s just as well they have nothing else to do.

Now, it seems that they are gunning for a group called “the East Devon Alliance” and saying that its their fault that they are in the mess they are in with the Local Plan. I looked them up and they’ve only been going about a year so I can’t understand how they could be blamed for stuff that has been happening for years and years. It just seems that, when in a hole they think the best strategy is to blame other people for it.

They are REALLY worried about how the European elections and the council elections in other areas are going next week. They never really had to worry much here before – people just kept ticking their box and they didn’t ever imagine they might lose. But now people are talking about voting for Independents and UKIP this time or not voting at all and they are seriously rattled. There aren’t any UKIP councillors (yet) but it looks like so many people are so upset with them that they would vote for just about anybody but them. And we have our own elections next year.

Who was it said “may you live in interesting times”? According to Wikipedia it could be a Chinese curse. It says “While purporting to be a blessing, this is in fact a curse. The expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that ‘uninteresting times’, of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones”. Hear, Hear – there is certainly no peace or tranquillity here at the moment.

Well, got to go – the weekly Developers Lunch is over (early today, it’s only 8.30 pm) and got to get one of them back to his Lear Jet over at the airport.

Oh,and please tell Daisy to stop opening my letters to you – she always was a nosey devil.

Your loving son



2 Responses to “From Bert: May you live in interesting times”

  1. Penelope Probity May 19, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Dear Mr Slurry,

    Written Warning

    Further to my powers under the Terrorism Act I have authorised the Post Room to intercept and open the attached correspondence from yourself to a Mrs Ermintrude Slurry, who is presumed from your opening line to be your maternal mother.

    On signing your contract of employment with this authority you agreed not to disclose any matters divulged to you in the course of your duties. I have sought independent legal advice from Three Monkeys LLP of Exeter and they find that you are clearly in breach of contract.

    It is a matter of regret that before this matter can be escalated a further breach must be committed, enabling me then to authorise your termination with extreme prejudice.

    As I write, our technical department is fitting your company car with tracking technology. And every time you switch on your computer or pad or phone colleagues in Cheltenham will be taking a little picture of you and sending it for our files. I am obliged to record that Three Monkeys LLP feel this is a disproptionate response, but then they don’t know what it’s like when everyone’s out to get you. Do they? Eh!

    I’m getting it from all sides, I am. It’s not that I can honestly disagree with you, Bert. I’ve seen you around, you know, and you’ve got such a friendly face. You want to try sitting across a table from some of the lot I have to deal with, day in, day out. Anyway, where was I? Er …

    Therefore please accept this written warning and do not send any more personal correspondence of this nature using the council franking machine. We are having to cut back on postage to pay for all these investigations into rogue councillors. Why don’t they just clear off?!

    Yours sincerely

    Penelope Probity

  2. Not A Developer May 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    Dear Ms Probity,

    Thank you for your letter which I have filed away carefully.

    Er, I think you will find that I did NOT use the council franking machine for any correspondence whatsoever. I stuck a real stamp on my letter to my Mum and placed it in what I thought at the time was a real postbox in Cranbrook.

    So, here we have an interesting situation.

    You did NOT intercept my letter from the postroom but from one of the letterboxes in Cranbrook. How many of the Cranbrook post boxes are being monitored by you, Ms “Probity”? And I presume you are also reading all the outgoing mail from the office.

    Funnily enough, I didn’t sign a contract. What happened was that my Dad knew one of your ex-councillors, he had a quiet word with him when he was selling one of our fields to him (the one that now has the luxury houses on it) and next thing you know I’m told to report to HQ. You try looking for that contract Ma’ am – it will take you a very long time!

    Three Monkeys LLP – pish and phaw. My dad and the ex-councillor went to school with ALL of the Monkeys. I think you will find that they have now very much changed their minds about representing you and have instead come over to my side – the Dark Side if you will.

    The tracking device. Oh dear – turns out that it was one that had been in stock for quite a while and it made an awful lot of noise as soon as I turned the key on the Bentley. So I took it off and put it on the Leader’s car. And boy has that been interesting. I must say the hidden camera and microphone are much better quality than the tracker, though I fiddled about with that a bit and it is now working fine. Though I took the precaution of removing it from the Leader’s car and putting a much more sophisticated one elsewhere – have fun trying to find it.

    So, now, Ms Probity. I suggest that you reconsider your advice to me. Why?

    Ever heard of “in the public interest”. It’s a lot like what that councillor said in the Standards Committee: “solely in the public interest” I think the phrase was. Well what I am doing is definitely in the public interest.

    AND it turns out that there are a couple of national newspapers AND a television channel really interested in my experiences and they are offering to send down a journalist to talk to me. And Private Eye has give me their secret email address!

    So. let’s get down to the nitty gritty Ms Probity: how can I put this – I have more on you and a few others than you have on me and I’ve also got a lot less to lose. You see, my family has land, lots and lots of it so I AM A DEVELOPER! That is, if I chose to be, but for the time being I rather like what I am doing but just bear that in mind ….. Look upon me as a sort of Robin Hood of Local Government.

    Now, actually you may be surprised to hear that I do have a little sympathy for you. Having sat in front of “some of the lot” you face across the table I can understand your state of mind. It must be awful having to be Ms Nasty to nice people who have done nothing wrong and Ms Sweet and Lovely to the others. It must have affected your mind.

    So, Ms Probity, I am offering you a deal. I don’t have to, but I have my reasons. I will keep my mouth shut about the post boxes in Cranbrook and the copies of all the emails and phone calls to and from your office (oh, I forgot to mention that, sorry) and you will forget all about the charges against me. You know how it works.

    Now, about the Dark Side – come over Ms Probity, come over – you might like it AND you would be able to sleep at night too.

    Oh, and by the way, MY friends in Cheltenham gave me this special paper and ink. This letter wil, self -destruct in 3, 2, ……

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