Wednesday, 22 February 2012

DOES ANYONE READ ‘THE PICKWICK PAPERS’ THESE DAYS? For those not in the know, it was the first novel published by Charles Dickens, and told the tale of a kind and wealthy old gentleman who, with some friends, decided to ‘extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life’ I was forced to read it at school, and I have remained fond of it ever since. It is not side-splittingly funny by modern standards, but is a kind of ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ set in the 1820s.

It occurred to me that I have many similarities with Samuel Pickwick. I hope I am kind, and I am certainly an old gentleman, and I do try to extend my researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life – in Wisbech.  In the original book, each chapter was headed with a teasing summary of what lay ahead, something along the lines of, ‘In which our hero discovers a disagreeable truth, is reunited with a relative, and finds that his habits are disagreeable to one he admires.’

If I were in Pickwickian mode, I would preface today’s chapter as follows. “In which a kindly gentleman receives an early visit from a nationally – known figure bearing a rejected letter, is contacted by a researcher from a publicly-funded broadcaster, then after making a heartfelt apology to one he has wronged, hears an astonishing proposal.” Certainly wordy enough for Dickens, but all true. I will reveal some, but not all. My nationally known early visitor was a lady who has had several brushes with the law – as in Civil Courts Of, not the local beak. She is a campaigner on moral issues, and many years ago, took on the might of the medical profession over contraception, parental rights and patient confidentiality. She had sent a letter to the local paper, quite unprompted by any debate this blog might have started, and was frustrated that they had chosen not to print it. She brought it to Pickwick Towers in the hope that I might be able to give it some exposure. I will publish her letter in full at the weekend, when I publish the results of the survey.

Regarding my apology, I will not go into details, because that would compound the felony. Suffice to say, the offended party has graciously accepted my apology, and I will be more thoughtful in future when playing around with Photoshop. The call from the publicly-funded broadcaster, and the astonishing proposal will have to wait for another day.

I have been reminded, quite forcefully, that the only people who fill in the survey are bigoted activists and people with an axe to grind, and anyway, it is flawed because the filtering which is meant to prevent multiple replies can be circumvented....and on, and on.....and, probably, on. I will attach the largest possible Health Warning to the survey results when they are available, and will wriggle, squirm and grovel on demand. But many of you have chosen to fill in the survey, and I will publish the results. People can draw whatever conclusions they choose to. One mischievous thought; cries of “not statistically viable..”, “unrepresentative...” do not sit too easily with examination of the turnout in various wards in local elections. An unworthy thought..? Absolutely, and I withdraw it unconditionally. Ooops, the delete key seems to have stuck.