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Letter From America: Crystal Clear

So what would you expect to happen when the Council send a man round to fit a door closer

Ronnie Bray tells a grammatical tale.

To read more of Ronnie's satisfying columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/letter_from_america/

He thrust the letter into my hand and grumbled, "I’ve got to take the afternoon off. The council is going to fit another door on my flat and I have to be there to let them in."

I read his letter. I didn’t need to, They say I am nosy. I say that I have a natural disposition to research and verify, not that it mattered to me, I was not his boss. It was a natural act of camaraderie, I would be churlish not to take an interest in the unfolding events of my friend’s life.

I had known him since he was ten years old, and had known, loved, and enjoyed his family for thirty and more years. I unfolded the missive, asking as I did so if his door really needed replacing.

"That’s the funny thing," he said. "I haven’t had the door for more than six months, when they put new doors on all the flats in the building."

"Perhaps it is a security update," I offered.

He grunted, shrugged, and fell silent.

The single page had the local authority’s logo across the top. It was garish, far too modern, and lacked the gravitas of the old Huddersfield County Borough coat of arms that gave council directives the look and feel of real letters. The Kirklees logo could have been knocked together by a kid with a John Bull printing outfit, or on a computer during a rainy afternoon that didn’t lend itself to outdoor activities. I mean, it had nothing even slightly reminiscent of the historical wealth of the town, and not a gules argent passé – let alone rampant – in its whole, nor a chevron emblazoned sinister or dexter, and neither halberd or escutcheon with a Latin motto to be seen on the whole wishy-washy logo-nouveau.

"Dear sir," the letter began - so far so good - "Dear sir, please arrange to be home on the afternoon of the 12th inst. so that our carpenter can install a door closer to your front door.

Your obedient servant."

Someone with a scrawl for a signature had scribbled whatever their name was, and added a flourish. No doubt this latter squiggle was some kind of compensation for the monogram’s lack of clarity.

"Still maintaining bureaucratic anonymity. I expect that is so you can’t sue anyone," I said to my friend.

"But, I don’t need another front door," he protested.

"It isn’t another front door," I remarked. "It looks as if they are going to fit an inside door nearer to your existing front door. Look, it says ‘a door closer to your front door.’"

"Why would they do that?" the bewildered chap inquired. I had no idea and Kirklees Council provided no hint of a motive for additional portal, therefore I did what I always do in circumstances when a vacuum presents itself – I guessed. "Perhaps it is a fire-retardant door, in case you set fire to the place."

Knowing my old pal and his modus vivendi, there was ever a possibility that his hobby – smoking himself silly – could initiate a conflagration, and the door, I reasoned, would help contain the blaze, thereby preventing it from reaching his main entry door that, if it came on fire, could spread death by smoke and flames in the general direction of his many neighbours who shared the compartmentalised, high rise, tower block with homo combustiens.

"Where will they put it?" he quizzed. I suggested that they would probably put it in the corridor some three to four feet behind his front door, creating a modest vestibule.

My suppositions apparently satisfied him, and so he took his letter back, folded it and replacing it in its envelope, then turned on his heels to fetch his jacket from the nail, calling behind, "I’m off. I’ll see you in the morning.''

Morning came and my friend came with it. He was smiling broadly and wondered the cause of his humour. I didn’t have long to wait. For the second time he handed me the letter, grinning, "Read it again and see if you can see what they did."

I read it again but it still spoke to me about a second door being fitted nearer – ‘closer’ was the word in print – to his existing main door. I confirmed my first reading.

"You’d think so," he responded, "and that’s what it said to me. But that isn’t what it’s about!" He grinned like a Cheshire cat, enjoying a jest to which I was not privy.

"Okay, then. What did they do?"

"What did they do?" He sounded like Al Read in the middle of one of his hilarious comedy routines. "What did they do? They fitted a door-closer to my front door! That’s what they did!"

His response was heavy laden with exclamations, born, I guessed, from his passion at failing to spot what the council really intended to do, and not what it appeared they were saying they were going to do.

"Right, monkey!" I said, aping one of Al Reid’s famous catch phrases.

He showed me the letter again. It reminded me of a church wedding, and this was the third reading! I read it again – this was becoming a habit – and saw it said ‘ … coming to fit a door closer to your front door.’

And then the penny dropped. All was crystal clear, in spite of the Council’s lack of clarity. If only they had written " … ‘coming to fit a door-closer’…" the mission of their artisan would have been unmistakable. A simple little hyphen would have done the job.

I suspect that the art of appropriate hyphenation, like proper spelling, the correct use of full-stops, commas, semi-colons, and colons, are alien to young people today, in which capitalisation, punctuation, and proper sentence construction hs bn lst frm the vcbs of yng flk evn whn they wrk 4 th lcl athrty.

O Tempora! O Mores!

stnkin krool, innit?

© 2008 – Ronnie Bray
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ronnie's "RETOLD YORKSHIRE FOLK TALES" Website at: http://yorkshiretales.com

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