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Michael H N Astell - The Heather Haddock Letter

In 1999 my parents' front lawn at Krumlin was being disturbed by moles and so my father consequently ordered a couple of 'mole chasers' from Innovations, a small mail order catalogue that dealt with technological gimmicks such as these. Unfortunately there were so many problems with delivery that my parents ended up moving house before they ever arrived, and thus the moles won the day.

My dad's letter to one of the customer service advisers, Heather Haddock, moved quickly into family history, due mostly to the fact that he started reading it aloud to every guest he entertained. It was even mentioned in the eulogy at his funeral.

By sheer coincidence, a couple of years later, I worked on a series of extended contracts at Great Universal Stores, the parent company who own the Innovations catalogue, in Ardwick. I visited many desks throughout the company during my stint in site support there but never did find Heather Haddock. Perhaps she was a myth after all.

I will always wonder just how she would have reacted, had I met her at GUS and explained that she brought my father much joy, if no mole chasers.

Note: the use of italics, underlining and virtual red ink is exactly as my father used them.

Krumlin House

11th October, 1999

Dear Heather Haddock

Ref No: 811/44171803
Mole Chaser x 2 (M2273)

I refer to your letter of 24th September, of which you sent me two copies in the same envelope. I am most surprised that you have been unable to reach me by phone as I have a permanent "answerphone". (This is a fairly modern and "innovative" device which enables callers to leave messages at any time. It is very simple to operate, all the caller has to do is to speak to it over the telephone line. Perhaps you could look into this and include one in your magazine?)

You say that the goods should reach me by 1st October - but you fail to say in which year that will be!

Since my order was due to be delivered by 30th August, 1999, I have telephoned weekly to try to ascertain what is happening. Some very pleasant people have proffered their apologies - and assured me that I can expect delivery "next week!".

I was delighted to receive your letter - but sadly the promised delivery of 1st October has long since passed. I telephoned again last Friday, and a very pleasant gentleman assured me of his apologies. A new twist was that he could not give me any date for delivery - not even which year - nor even which millennium! - he seemed most perplexed by the whole situation. He was even more perplexed when I asked to speak to you - Heather Haddock. He has never heard of you! I asked to speak to your department - but apparently "customer services advisers" do not speak to customers! Perhaps this was why you could not contact me on the phone. What a strange company "Innovations" is!!

In the hope that Royal Mail can manage to discover your existence and deliver this letter to you - I am trying the cost of a stamp to see if you really do exist and if you would be able to help. I look forward to your reply - hopefully this century - and by either telephone or letter (canoe from Taiwan has already failed - so please avoid that means of delivery.)

Meanwhile I thought you would like to know that the moles are multiplying in numbers quite alarmingly.

Yours sincerely, but not with much hope,

MHN Astell

FAO: Heather Haddock
Customer Services Adviser

Royal Avenue
WA88 1NN

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