Irrational ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ type correspondence is on the increase in national newspapers during the coronavirus lockdown; ‘Horrified of Haddenham’ cash-coronavirus conspiracist Garry May is a fine case in point
The coronavirus lockdown has no doubt resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ (and even paradoxically ‘Delighted of Tunbridge Wells’) types corresponding with both national and local newspapers. There are, after all, now many more people moping around at home with little else to do other than to ponder with a pen (or clatter on a keyboard).
Whilst in November 2019, The Telegraph stated that its letters editor received and read 600 missives per day from readers (and subsequently published 18 of them in their next edition) and in June that year, the Guardian referenced a by comparison meagre sum of 82 per day (citing 30,000 communications annually), one can only assume that both publications have seen huge spikes in their mailbags in the last few weeks – the content of which of course now mostly arrives by email rather than with the help of the Royal Mail.
Editors such as Christopher Howse – who has worked on The Telegraph’s letters pages for over twenty years – however, is plainly still favouring letters from his reliable riled-up regulars and yesterday was no exception. In publishing a totally irrational observation from one Garry May of Haddenham, Buckinghamshire linking cash to coronavirus (a totally nonsensical view very clearly empirically denied by the World Health Organisation in March), the paper fulfilled its ability to share views to spread yet more Eamonn Holmes-esque claptrap. This kind of 5G type twaddle will no doubt appeal to its stereotypical conspiracy theory believing old buffer audience, but it is without factual base.
In his letter, Mr May suggested:
SIR – I hope this pandemic cements the use of debit cards for all transactions, and thereby the end of cash.
Bank notes and coins spread diseases. Ruling out ready money could also put an end to most drug deals on our streets.
On a date exact unknown circa 2011, in a letter to The Telegraph, that was subsequently republished in the compilation book The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum: Political Letters to The Daily Telegraph, Mr May previously shared his views on phone hacking. He presented yet another pastiche of days gone by and read:
SIR – The hacking scandal left my family debating who we can still rely on. Our shortlist of trustworthies came down to the Gurkhas, other ranks in our Armed Forces, postmen and Simon the pieman, who works in the butcher’s shop.
Mr May’s archaic idealism might resonate as charming and worthy, but what should be noted is that this prolific man of letters belonging in the 1950s lives in Haddenham, a quintessential English village that most definitely has Midsomer Murders-esque qualities (it was used as a location in eight episodes of the television drama even). One of only three ‘wychert’ settlements in the country and a place peppered with thatched cottages and a duck pond famed for breeding Aylesbury ducks, one can imagine the era of “old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist” John Major-style still reigns in this parish.
Indeed, at this time, as countless rural residents turn to growing their own vegetables and even start going to their local ‘community shop’ in order to avoid queuing for hours whilst safe distancing at Tesco, many will join in eulogising a love of postmen and piemen and – quite rightly – a loathing for evil drug dealers also.
Sadly, however, getting rid of cash will not wipe out that particularly vile scourge on society and it will not stop the spread of coronavirus. Instead, maybe it’s time for ‘Horrified of Haddenham’ to find another topic to get het up about: Perhaps, indeed, Mr May could turn his pen to the squealing sickness of snitching ‘quarantine shaming’ or maybe he could just calm down and pour himself a large G&T.
An early example of ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ correspondence:
SIR – Being present at the unveiling of the plaque on Thursday last week on the Pantiles, I was surprised when the National Anthem was played to see that in a place like Tunbridge Wells, which is noted for its loyalty and calls itself ‘Royal,’ there should be people who refused to remove their hats. Are such people Communists? If they are, Tunbridge Wells should be no place for such as they. We can do without them.
Letters to the Editor, ‘Tunbridge Wells Advertiser’ – 14th June 1929.
Pictured top: Haddenham, Buckinghamshire – a quintessentially quaint English village with a duck pond and thatched cottages from whence nosy parkers peer from behind net curtains.