Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The frequent flyers (fliers?) in the letter-box are usually scrappy things. Sometimes hand-written and photocopied on A5 paper, they are from Kev or Dave, who have no surnames or addresses, offering to prune trees or clear sections or take away rubbish or fix leaking taps. All you have to do, they say, is ring their mobiles and they'll be round to give you a quote. Somehow these messages don't inspire confidence, even when the services offered are useful and necessary, and you would, on principle, prefer to employ local people to do those jobs you can't or don't want to do yourself. Kev and Dave are anonymous. They could be eighteen or eighty. They could be cowboys or con-men. They could be anybody. My address-book is filled with these scraps of paper, filed under "gardening" or "handyman", and I have never called any of them.

The other day I found in my letter-box a sheet of A4 paper in an envelope with my address (but not my name) on it, clearly hand-delivered. The paper introduced a local carpenter and odd-job man offering to do small building jobs, repairs and household problem-fixing. In a photograph of him, wearing a hard-hat, he looked like somebody's granddad, and his full name was printed underneath. A short paragraph told me that he had lived locally for "most of me life" and had recently started a small business practising is trade. Already I was looking around the house wondering what he could do for me first.

"How can I help you?" he asked. Seven bullet points told me what I needed to know, including a promise to turn up when he says he will, and an undertaking to recommend reliable tradespeople for work he couldn't do. The third part was headed "What work can I do?" and here were fourteen bullet points which set out an impressive range of work he was prepared, and qualified, to handle. He promised to take on only work he could do on his own - clearly a man who knows his trade and is responsible enough not to get out of his depth and beyond his capacity to cope. Finally he included his phone number so I could, and did, look him up in the telephone book and locate his street address.

That flyer was a model of advertising: clear, concise and informative, reassuring and helpful, straightforward and inspiring confidence. The personality of this man was all over that unassuming piece of A4 paper and he will no doubt be overwhelmed by offers of work by now. His name is my secret; I might need his services because I have thrown out all the Kevs and Daves in my address-book.
The painting is "Green Apples & Carafe"

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