Friday, 24 July 2009

Fun with spam

We recently received this:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Hillyard []
Sent: 24 July 2009 10:14
Subject: Enquiry

Good morning,

Please excuse the informal use of email for this enquiry.

Can you please confirm who would be responsible for reducing the cost of your stationery purchases, within your office please ?

Also could you advise me of their mailing address.

Many thanks


Jeff Hillyard

Harper Office

Unit 6 Ashton Gate

Harold Hill


Essex RM3 8UF

We felt he required a response:

Dear Mr Hillyard:

It’s a long story, I am afraid, but one filled with hope for us all.

We used to have someone who was specifically responsible for this task. His name was Cornelius Dagblatt. We sent him on a fact finding mission across the seas to source raw materials so we could make our own supplies of paper, staples and writing materials. Wood, steel, porcupine quills and that sort of thing. He set sail from Gravesend on 24 October 1998; a day we remember well. Our staff went to see him off, tears of parting joy rolling down our cheeks and grubby handkerchiefs waving in the sullen grizzle of that autumnal day.

Little did we know what trials and tribulations he would face as he chirpily walked up the gangway to the neat three masted schooner which would carry him away, together with his case of Land Registry forms and pencils, sharpened to clinically perfect points, to the tropics and beyond.

Three years later, the postman delivered a tatty envelope with postage stamps from the Estados Unidos do Brasil. In it was a letter, folded twice, and inscribed in familiar copperplate on the most beautiful paper we had ever seen. As light as the finest India paper, but retaining a sheen redolent of the soft first dew of the day; blocked with gold leaf; and cut to A5 size with a precision beyond that of machine, or man, or beast.

The letter told of Mr Dagblatt’s landing in the delta of the Orinoco, in the Republic of Venezuela and his hiring of a native canoe wherewith he paddled up that River for hundreds of miles. It told of the sad loss of one of his thumbs to piranha fish and how he struggled with his load of forms across the highlands of Tapirapeco, plagued with poisonous spiders and vengeful armadillos, to the upper reaches of the Rio Negro, and how, in a forest clearing, where the light from the sky penetrated down between the high trees like a shaft of golden rain, he came across the Lost Papermakers of St Ationery, whose remote ancestors had originally settled with the Jesuit Missionaries of Nuestra SeƱora de Loreto and who, after the forcible dissolution of those Missions, had come northwards to find peace and simple satisfaction in the making of paper and other items of stationery.

They had had no contact with the rest of the world since 1780, when they came across a blind Prussian engineer wandering in the jungle and adopted him into their ragged but determined group. He taught them the arts of office administration and independently invented the typewriter, the dictation machine, and carbon paper. His daughter, Magdalena Schwarzwurzel, carried on the family tradition of innovatory excellence and by 1832, when she died, the small settlement in Northern Brazil, then of course an Empire under the rumbustious Emperor Pedro II, of which they knew nothing, had an efficient network of computers with LCD monitors and attached colour printers. Paper production was standardised and the metric system of paper sizes adopted quite by chance in the 1920s.

The stapler came quite late to them; with monkey’s teeth being used to keep papers together right up to the 1960s, but a source of iron ore was available for the manufacture of staples of an extraordinary purity.

Having found the settlement, Mr Dagblatt stayed for a year and a month, coming to a natural understanding with the processes of paper making and pencil sharpening which he had never encountered in his years as a stationery clerk. His experiences had transformed him and he felt unable to return to what he described as the “humdrum and sordid life of shame and loathing of people trying to sell you things” which he had been part of in Streatham. His letter, posted from a post-office in the state of Amazonas, ends with a paragraph which we have now had ten years to come to terms with: “Although I hold my position of stationery clerk at your firm in the highest esteem, I now feel that my life belongs with the simple people of St Ationery. I ask that you use the arrears of salary I am owed by you to benefit those who are injured by paper cuts or accidentally disfigured by office guillotines, but not those whose hands are pierced by staples as they should know better. I bid you adieu.”

Since then we have heard nothing. His mission had succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, but sadly we could not reap the benefit thereof.

We have no plans to replace him as we hold his memory so dear. His chair awaits him should he change his mind, and it is cleaned using hygienic wipes every five weeks, as we are sure he would have wanted.

As such I regret that there is no person who is responsible for reducing the cost of our stationery purchases within our office.

Laurence N. Mann


Messrs A. L. Hughes & Co.


340 Streatham High Road

London SW16 6HH

Friday, 3 July 2009

Cycling on the pavement

If there is an issue which divides society in the country, it is not religion, which is generally scoffed at, nor taxes, which are mostly disliked, nor even drugs; but cycling on the pavement.

On the one hand are those that fear (often in this order) for the safety of their dogs, their neighbours' toddlers and for the elderly, who are always said to be in peril of anything moving faster than a snail. They say that cyclists pay no attention to road signs and traffic lights and riding on the pavement is a further symptom of their evil intent and reckless lifestyles. On the other are those who say it does no harm, that only a very small minority of cyclists are irresponsible, and certainly they are fewer in number than the white van men whose lives are devoted to ending those of persons perceived to be of lesser status, with cyclists their principal targets.

The law is archaic and unhelpful.

The Highway Act 1835 is the source of the present regulatory regime. It provides that:

If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon...[they shall be guilty of an offence].

Just in case is any doubt, and I think there was, in 1888, Parliament, with the speed and efficiency which has always distinguished its operations, provided further, in the Local Government Act of that year that:

Bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes, and other similar machines are hereby declared to be carriages within the meaning of the Highway Acts

Now there are some interesting points arising from this legislation, enacted at a time when the fastest thing on the roads was probably the bicycle:

  1. The definition of carriage logically must include a pram or baby buggy, a wheelchair, and in particular a motorised four wheeled scooter of the sort increasingly seen in our town centres. The Surrey police, who responded to a Freedom of Information request about the status of prams cited a case from 1861 (R v Mathias) which seemed to suggest that the right of a member of the public to abate the use of a pram on a highway was related to whether or not it was a nuisance. Contrary what the Surrey Police say in their answer, this is not an authority for the proposition that the use of a pram is not a breach of the Acts: indeed it is the opposite. It is simply supports the proposition that a member of the public cannot restrain the use of the footway by a person in breach of the Highway Act unless there was a nuisance.
  2. The Highway Act does not apply to any footway which is not both next to a road and set aside for the use of pedestrians. It does not therefore apply to paths which are not next to roads such as those in shopping centres. There may be bylaws in relation to those which restrict user, but this is a separate matter. A Highways Act ticket issued for these streets is invalid.
This is most unsatisfactory. Not only does it not tie criminality into harm done, which inevitably undermines the law by leaving those who break it feel not at all guilty, just resentful; not only is it selectively enforced, with wheelchair users in particular allowed to roam our streets without sanction - not that anyone outside an asylum or perhaps parliament would suggest otherwise; but in addition, it is out of date, with the bicycle very much at the soggy end of the road traffic food chain, and its user at daily risk of serious injury or death from careless drivers. Fewer than one person a year is killed by cyclists on pavements, hundreds of cyclists die under the wheels of motor vehicles of all sorts.

In other countries, where cyclists may use the footways unless specifically forbidden, there are no heaps of dead pedestrians at every corner, and people are of course attuned to the presence of cycles.

The obvious solution is that cyclists should be allowed to use the pavement, providing they give way to pedestrians, and providing they hold insurance. Dangerous cycling should be treated as seriously as dangerous driving, but simply cycling along a virtually empty footway should be regarded as normal.

About us

Streatham, London, United Kingdom
We are a small but perfectly formed firm of Solicitors in South London. Messrs A. L. Hughes & Co. Solicitors 340 Streatham High Road London SW16 6HH DX 58457 Norbury Telephone: 020 8769 7100 Fax: 020 8677 6644 A list of partners may be inspected at the above premises. We're regulated by the Solicitors' Regulation Authority.