Thursday, August 09, 2007

Abstract letter-penning

I almost choked on a Jammie Dodger in the bath last night when I read the following letter, which appeared in the 'Your Say' page of yesterday's Evening Gazette, my local rag.

'Cleverness of laughing clown'

IT TAKES a clever person to hold a serious job and now and again act like the fool.

Like when Socialist Denis Healey, on the campaign trail here in Guisborough, was beckoned by myself and asked perfunctorily about his health. He replied thus: "I am full of beans." He then took my wife's hand and patted his tummy with it.

For those of you who did not know that Denis Healey got a double first degree (Hons) at Oxford, you do now. Oh, and I wondered whether or not Denis Healey had heard about the law of raspberry jam, that is the farther you spread it the thinner it gets. Not unlike culture.

ALFRED H LISTER, Guisborough

What? I've read it at least fifteen times now and still can't identify the basic idea or message the author is trying to communicate. It's a completely baffling contribution, but having said that, I like the cut of Alfred H Lister's jib enormously. The tone of the letter suggests to me that he is an elderly man. I don't want to appear ageist or prejudiced against those from Guisborough, but I wish I was old enough and from Guisborough enough to be able to get away with nuttiness like this. It's like an abstract work of art, which you can't grasp the meaning of immediately, and then when you analyse it further it becomes still less and less clear what it's saying.

There's almost a basic point about Healey playing the joker, despite having a double first from Oxford, I can see that much. But then why bring the jam conundrum into it? What has it got to do with anything? 'Not unlike culture'? Alfred H Lister is evidently a loose cannon with no regard for letters page etiquette and convention, and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for any future contributions from him.


Blogger Dan said...

That is, somehow, a work of genius which I enjoyed far too much. I even tried breaking it down into small parts and re-assembling it, to no avail (it did make a fetching bracelet, though).

A quick 'google' search (UK pages only) on Alfred (can I call him that, or do you think he prefers Mr Lister? After a while, I’m going to call him ‘Alf’, and at that point we might even start joking about ‘Alf’ off the telly, but I think he was A.L.F, actually [Mr Lister might raise that point in a letter]) brings up some of his other, admittedly not as beautifully written, works, e.g.

‘I SMILED when cleric-columnist Peter Mullen's butcher in London's Smithfield Market cracked the one about him spending the collection money on meat (Echo, Apr 11). I wonder just how many butchers joke with vicars, and vice versa.

One also wonders just what this butcher would make of Peter Mullen's column in The Northern Echo. Actually, I don't suppose the butcher knows about Peter Mullen being a columnist in the Echo, itself a Northern newspaper.

Well aside from having a good sense of humour, Peter Mullen occasionally creates quite a bit of controversy, he being no friend of the Government and saying so with vigour. In short, Peter Mullen is my favourite columnist in the Echo.

Alfred H Lister, Guisborough.’

August 09, 2007 1:33 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

I bet he keeps a bag of mint imperials in his glovebox.

August 09, 2007 2:01 pm  
Blogger Gez said...

He's actually a bit of a nutcase - I like the way he thinks campaigning for a local election is "holding down a steady job". Mind you, check out what he thinks about royals as ambassadors:

"PRINCE Charles' visit to Iran met with political controversy, but I thought it was rather appropriate. What better ambassador could Britain send abroad than the next in line to the throne? Politicians are usually motivated by ambition, our royals clearly aren't as they are born and then schooled to do a demanding job. - Alfred H Lister, Guisborough."

Well done Charlie, Alfred is very proud that you have a) been born, b) been to a school and c) shown a life-long lack of ambition.

I know lots of people like that, maybe Alfred H Lister would like my mate Keith to be an ambassador; he could teach Iranians how to roll a joint and live exclusively on Hula Hoops.

August 09, 2007 2:41 pm  
Blogger Paddy said...

Ah, so old Alfred H. is a serial letter writer. I should've known: people who insist on using their middle initial are usually a serial something or other.

And his admiration for royalty doesn't end with Charles. I've now done my own Google search and stumbled across this gem (I'm sure you've already seen it yourself), where he lambasts modern republicans and describes the Queen as "the epitome of elegance and refinement", before daring to go even further: "Just take a good look at our sophisticated Queen and then think, if you can, of any other woman of such high calibre."

Then he closes with this: "Perhaps pro-Republicans can't recognise high culture."

He shouldn't blame us though. As his most recent letter states, the law of raspberry jam has probably rendered it so thin that it is unrecognisable.

August 10, 2007 1:00 am  
Blogger Paddy said...

That link effort didn't seem successful, so here:

Fourth letter down. Although I've already summarised it quite expertly so there's not much need.

I'm off to look up Lister, A.H. in the phone book.

August 10, 2007 1:03 am  
Blogger Dan said...

This very morning, on realising it was now time to cut out for scanning a couple of items I’ve been saving for GrammarBlog, I opened the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette from 27.07.07. Sure enough, as serendipity works in that way, the following letter sat next to the one I was looking for. It’s not as bonkers as some of the others, but has its moments:

THE past is where it belongs as they say. Most certainly some of it is.

Meanwhile Conservative leader David Cameron wants the resurrection of religion, particularly the part of it to do with people getting married prior to raising children.

It is written that the 20th Century has seen the greatest decline in religion on record, part of which is connected with unmarried couples along with children born out of wedlock.

In short, times have changed whereby there is no stigma attached to the aforementioned scenario. And understandably so. This is the 21st century, not the 20th.

The irony of this ethical scenario is this, though. The very thought of folk being buried without a religious ceremony boggles the mind. Unlike couples rearing children out of wedlock. Times have changed.

ALFRED H LISTER, Guisborough.

August 10, 2007 9:55 am  
Blogger Paddy said...

This man's rare talent for sounding so forthright and eloquent without ever actually making a point is quite mindblowing. He always does a good opening line though - straight away he's got us by the jaffers.

I vaguely remember reading that very letter dated 27.07.07 on the train up to Edinburgh that morning, but clearly it didn't leap out at me enough. I probably thought its nonsense was just down to me (alas, it wasn't).

August 10, 2007 10:31 am  
Blogger Gez said...

I sense an internet craze based on the vague teachings of AHL.

August 10, 2007 1:43 pm  
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