Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: Everything is hunky-dory, and then the letter arrives

IT’S a still, grey, Saturday morning, late in autumn – a rather pleasant stasis before Mr Christmas charges in with his air-horn, bawling, “Let’s roll!” Outside my window, the usual weekend clatter of the streets is muted by a light drizzle. In other words, it’s what I call “a good writing day”.

I’ve completed my two-hour stint on Radio Wiv’s Saturday breakfast show. I’ve done a bit of shopping, popped into the farmers’ market and had a yarn with a couple of people. It’s the stuff such as this, I now realise, which makes for genuine happiness. It has nothing to do with “journeys”, challenges, learning curves or zeitgeists. It’s merely an unscripted cheerful mooch around my little town on a damp Saturday morning. I arrive home, make a cup of coffee and light the coal stove.

I’m idly sharpening a quill when the letter arrives.

It’s been re-directed from the East Anglian’s offices in Ipswich. The letter is a photostat presented in plain typeface and headed “URGENT. For your information.”

The gist of it is that the “GM Food Corporation aircraft” are spraying our skies with aluminium. One of the reasons for them doing this, the letter claims, is so that organic seeds will not be able to grow, thereby forcing our farmers to buy genetically-modified seeds from the corporations.

Somehow, the letter assures me, this all links up with increases in cases of Alzheimers, respiratory disease, compulsory population reduction (uh?) and, wait for it, paying out less money on pensions. The letter also blames the corporation’s aerial chemical-spraying for the fierceness of the forest and bush fires currently raging throughout the world.

The big banks and corporations are at war with us, the writer states. He or she then concludes by telling me that: “It is time to wake up.” Naturally, there is no signature on the letter.

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I expect that the sender, already in despair, is only waiting for the inevitable chemical rain from the skies, and has probably assumed that this cri-de-coeur would go unanswered. But he or she was wrong. You’ve done exactly the right thing, Sir or Madam, contacting the Joy of Essex – the column that never sleeps. I mean, there I was with a bit of time on my hands, between my early-morning radio stint and an afternoon writing session. How could I have been so decadent? To imagine that I could just fritter away the remains of a grey Saturday on concocting this inconsequential whimsy. Luckily, your anonymous letter found its way here, catapulting me out of my complacency.

I’ve already pressed my arthritic partner into service. That’s her out in the yard, right now, digging us a bunker. Meanwhile the three children are safe, playing Monopoly in our reconditioned Anderson shelter down the garden. It’s odd, that, because I’ve just remembered that we don’t have any children. I wonder whose they are.

Never mind, though; thank you for your vigilance. Despite the fact that a daily cavalcade of rolling bad news thunders from national radio every hour on the hour, I was, for a moment back there, feeling almost cheerful.

I’m also fortunate enough to live near a university. This means there are sufficient numbers of over-educated and only mildly-neurotic people keeping me up to speed with leaflets and e-mails on various worrying topics such as the environment, our diet, western military adventurism, the evil multi-nationals, the destruction of the NHS and my not wearing enough responsibly-sourced if shapeless hessian garments. And now, your letter. Cheers.

It’s thanks only to the type of enlightenment which living in affluent north-east Essex has brought me that I eventually sold my shares in the leopard-skin coat factory and voluntarily resigned from the Big Game Hunters Club. I will also not now be re-opening the uranium mine in Rowhedge or fracking for the natural gas which evidence suggests exists in substantial deposits beneath Colchester’s Longridge Park.

I also realise how errant I was to have once suggested to someone waving an Anti Capitalist placard at me during my power breakfast 10 years ago that she may have been a stranger to reason – even if she was the second Mrs Newell at that time. Furthermore, I acknowledge that we are not living in “The Town Which Psychiatry Forgot” and I don’t recall saying it, but if I ever did, the entire population deserves my retro-active and abject apology.

As for the letter which arrived this morning, when I was for a few deluded minutes in danger of feeling mildly happy, “Big love”, I believe they say nowadays to our unknown writer for the “heads up”. I now intend to write a stern letter to this so-called GM Food Corporation and give them a piece of my mind. That should scare the living daylights out of them.

“I expect they’ll say, “Oh crikey! It’s that bloke from The Joy of Essex. He’s only rumbled us, hasn’t he? He uses sarcasm and everything – now we’re done for.”

You’ve done exactly the right thing getting in touch, anonymous correspondent. And if you do happen to hear a whooshing in the sky above you tonight, don’t fret. It’ll only be me, flying overhead, protecting you from the world’s wrong-doers. We must all remain on our guard. Provided he doesn’t complain about the uncomfortable saddle, of course.

Do I win 10 pounds?