It’s been a varied week for Richard Lutz, from emptying the house of books via walking in the woods to dealing with British Gas.
Since it is at the top of the house, this means we basically have ignored it and its continual demise into gradual shabbiness. But now to change it.
And that means making a decision about “those books”.
The result is a mass clean-up. Out go all the 1,000 page James Michener novels, the Hollywood biographies (love that Ava Garnder epic), the roll call of Tudor history, the highly digestible Olivia Manning sagas.
But as we leaf through the books (ensuring no £5 notes are stored in their innards), you begin to wonder why we collect the things anyway. Once read, most stay there forgotten. Are they a vanity project to show how literate you can be? Are they a portrait of yourself? Are they simple statements that you exist? I ask around.
One friend said she dated each book she bought and where she got it from. To give them away is to give part of yourself away, she commented., Another nods sagely and says it is simple vanity. All books should go so others can read them. A third says he actually re-reads the damn things and uses them for research. Busy man.
I’m not that noble. Out they go. Hundreds of ’em. Rumour has it that Oxfam, that great charitable repository of books, actually pulps volumes it deems unsaleable. Whoops, smacks of book burning.
I check it out; one Oxfam worker agrees that a decision is made on shabby books or those that would not be bought. But who makes these decisions? On what criteria? Another Oxfam worker goes the other way and says most books are kept and those deemed unsaleable are given to another company that tries to distribute them at a lower level. No book is destroyed unless it is physically beyond repair.
I opt for Oxfam and they even came to my house and took ‘em away. Goodbye Michener, Manning and Carl Hiassen. Goodbye, in effect, to all that.
On to pain in the ass of the week. The award goes to British Gas. It informs me (and probably millions of others) that the Nectar programme, wherein you collect points for paying your bills, “is changing”.
I read the two-sided letter and don’t understand what the energy company is getting at. Is Nectar changing, or being stopped? It is confusing to say the least. I call the Really Nice Folks at the call centre.
Does ‘changes’ mean actually stopping the Nectar points which can always be redeemed for food at Sainsburys? I don’t understand. The Newcastle voice ultimately cracks under my boneheaded repeat of the questions. Yes, he agrees that many customers are confused. And, amazingly, in a fit of honesty, admits that British Gas folks are confused too. He says that it is a Nectar company policy change.
But aha, I add, Point One of your mass confusion of facts says the changes are based on ‘feedback.’ That’s two different things. And I’m still not sure if things are being altered or simply stopped. He admits many are confused and a second letter will go out.
I ask why a first letter went out when British Gas staff don’t even understand the memo. He tries to get rid of me at this point and says he will log my remarks. But he never asks for my name.
To relax after the Gas Clash, I walk with some pals through Million Wood near Kinver, southwest of Birmingham. It is a late autumn and not as colourful as usual for this time of year. Green leaves still cling to branches, twist and shiver in the cool wind.
But the trees acting as a canopy over the canal is a tunnel of colour. Million Wood itself is mostly quiet stately pine. Golden ferns are knee length and carpet the ground. The trees here are slowly getting golden. It’s in these quiet Staffordshire woods that summer has departed to allow autumn to creep in.