Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas spirit? What Christmas spirit? (Service? What service?)

I write this while under house arrest. More exactly, while waiting to see if whatever random skunkhead some cowboy courier service employs can be bothered to turn up with our friends’ Xmas presents. We don’t “do” extravagant Yuletide nonsense in this house, but we do like to give those we like a bit of something exotic to nibble on, just to say thanks for another year of moral support against the growing tide of Manx general ignorance.
“Ah, serves you right for not shopping local”, you say.
“Oh, sod that for a game of soldiers, you sad Calvinist half-lives”, says I, though it’s not as if we haven’t tried. The problem is, they don’t stock anything edible – or even anything you’d feed to a freeloading relative you don’t want back, if it comes to that.
Until last Christmas it was simple enough. The fabulous Moughtin Brothers ran a great little deli just five minute’s walk away where quality mattered, the customer was royalty and nothing was too much trouble. For years they have been trying to bow out gracefully and hand over to some enterprising young grocer. The trouble is, there aren’t any.
Sure, there are any number of pretentious little upstarts who want to regurgitate slop they saw on some ex-Etonian’s culinary TV show. What there are not are straightforward small town shopkeepers willing to provide honest food which originated from animals which led relatively happy (if short )lives on something we would recognise as a farm or things resembling fruit and vegetables which grew on actual trees and bushes, the above ingredients lovingly assembled and processed by people with a modicum of culinary expertise (whether acquired from relatives or apprenticeship in something resembling a restaurant or hotel kitchen).
Is this really too much to ask?
On the Isle of Man the answer is “Yes, really”.
So we were reduced to ordering online from what advertises itself as a Lake District emporium of traditional foodstuffs - which we now suspect is run by an anonymous corporation maintaining a head office, on paper, at a desirable rural mail-forwarding address, with the actual call centre and packing carried out by desperate Mancunians and Scousers who can no longer avoid the DSS on some identikit industrial estate – probably in Runcorn or somewhere equally dreadful. The order was placed on 10th December and, according to the blurb, picked up and delivery promised within 48 hours. On 18th December a mysterious e-mail arrived thanking us for an order received just that day and promised, more vaguely, within five working days. When we replied, trying to establish who would deliver and so who to chase if it didn’t turn up it emerged that said emporium, rather than an identifiable courier service, give delivery contracts via a murky intermediary to any John Wayne with a 20 year old Transit (or even Nova) who can be enticed away from the local skunk dealer for 20 minutes.
Oh well, Merry Christmas.
And if you are a dear friend, hope you enjoyed this, because thanks to the general indolence and incompetence of the 21st century retail industry it may be all you get from us this festering season.

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