Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Dear Mr. Carter

After my father died in 2011 I received a letter from an officer at the local council.  The author could not be certain which pronouns he was supposed to use so he pretty much tried them all. Although the letter was addressed to me, he offered his condolences on the occasion of my death and enclosed a glossy leaflet all about the Council's options for dealing with a loved one's remains.  I felt his information to be surplus to requirements for the twin reasons that (a) had I really passed away I couldn't have used the information and (b) we had buried my father in one of his cemeteries four days earlier.  I have to assume that the whole exercise was designed to cheer me up at a very dark and difficult time.   No one could have been crass enough to have sent such a badly-worded and misdirected letter at such a sensitive time ... surely?  As a strategy, I felt it was risky.  

I was in no state to respond at the time.  The loss of my father also meant the imminent loss of what had been my home for the preceding eight years including the time I cared for him as he became increasingly ill and in need of support.  I had other priorities.

It was about a year before I felt able to return to this letter and compose a response.  I don't suppose "Mr Carter" will ever hear about this, or even be aware that I have been singing about him all this time.  Probably just as well.  I changed his name for the song.  It didn't seem fair to single him out among his colleagues, since I suppose he was only doing his job to the best of his ability.  I trust that, these days, he has acquired some skills in communicating with the bereaved - or has been moved to other duties.

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence that you sent me on the sixth of May.
You could not have been politer, but you're clearly not a writer when you muddle up your pronouns in this careless way.
Are you singular or plural?  “Royal Wes” sometimes obscure all sense of meaning undermining what you mean to say.
But despite some reservations you mean well, although I fear your near dismissal.
Your epistle isn't clear.

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence that you sent me on the sixth of May.
It was nice to get your letter, but I hoped for something better than your startling vignette that I had passed away.
It wasn't even recently, but rather more indecently you wrote that I'd been buried months ago and so I say
That, as an agent of the council, it seems odd that you renounce all normal courtesies when writing day-to-day.

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence least expected of deliveries this year.
Almost churlish now to mention, but there is a wee convention that a letter to the buried might seem insincere.
Plot XYZ2-80 my abode, but still quite weighty my concern that you have spurned it to address me here,
Mill Road, Walpole St Peter, undeniably a feat of intuition.  Recognition somewhat queer.

Whether Walpole now or Gayton I'll confess it is a weight on my shoulders since I don't know which is my abode,
My domicile or dwelling and the strain is surely telling.
There must be some administrative way to ease my load?

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence that arrived here Thursday, May the twelfth.
Now I'm dead what are my options beyond council tax reduction?
I don't mean to cause a ruction, Let's just blame my health.
As you note I've been ill lately and it's true I would be greatly obligé if you’d delegate me a rebate by stealth.
No confession would be needed if you heeded my request to do your best to add a little to my wealth.

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence from the bottom of my beating heart.
And the leaflet you enclose will come in handy, I suppose, in my repose and heaven knows will give a flying start
To my life in the hereafter.  If you'll please excuse my laughter while I sing about a grafter who will soon depart
From his office at the council if he doesn't soon renounce all stupid letters.

Exasperation's what I'm feeling while I'm reeling from your spieling
In the matter of bereavement and my family's needs.
Consider this embarrassment occasioned by this harassment.
Stick to writing mission statements - crap that no one reads!

Dear Mr Carter,
May I thank you for your letter of condolence that you sent me on the sixth of May.
I so want to be offended, but least said is soonest mended.
You intended no offence, but please I ought to say that, when writing people letters, better show them to your betters before posting as a roasting is unsightly, rightly.
Pray remember recently bereaved become aggrieved when we receive some pointless note, sent out by rote (and lest my fingers find your throat) don’t you dare try to wish me a nice day.

"Dear Mr. Carter" © Marshlander 2012
Thanks to Jason Burgess for the video shot at Norwich Arts Centre 27th February 2016

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