Those of you who follow this blog will be aware that I have been involved in a dialogue with one Caroline Parkinson of Nantmel, in the letters pages of the Mid Wales Journal, over statistics relating to poverty in my home town of Llandrindod Wells. My initial findings are documented as Britain’s idyllic rural life: poverty and joblessness, and Ms Parkinson’s letter and my response are in the article I won’t tolerate this insult to my town.
It seems I was not sufficiently persuasive. The Journal dated March 23 contained another letter from Ms Parkinson which I shall share with you forthwith.
Under the headline If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it, she writes:
“I’m mortified. I’ve upset Mr Sivier (letters, March 9). How true to type he should choose to interpret what I wrote regarding Llandrindod’s generosity at Christmas in a way that suits his ‘loud-mouthed’ agenda.
“Since when did Nantmel become to Llandod what Harrods is to the Co-op? What a risible analogy.
“I would no more wish ‘disgracefully to insult’ the people of Llandrindod, than I would those of any other part of our glorious United Kingdom. But I reiterate if its residents – and countless others – found themselves more heavily in hock after Christmas than before, it is only because they are representative of people the world over who feel pressurised by what next door is buying, eating, drinking, or watching and whose aspirations do not match their incomes.
“It’s called ‘societal behaviour’, but for Mike’s sake, let’s call it peer pressure.
“And this pressure – be it from next door or from advertising, trying to sell you ‘stuff’ at any cost (to you) – is what leads to societies founded on debt. Mike, have you not noticed what’s been happening because of societies founded on debt?
“I do not applaud the ‘generosity’ that made LW the 15th most likely town in the UK to have overspent at Christmas. I’m sorry that LW and the 14 towns before it seem to be populated by people who do not have the strength of character to resist the forces of temptation.
“LW is hardly unique. Its residents fall prey to this modern consumerist disease – no latest iPhone? no street-cred. It’s patently clear that society would be in better economic shape today if it was not entirely founded on debt.
“Those who can’t afford the run-up to Christmas will do whatever it takes to keep up with the Joneses and regret it afterwards. Whatever happened to ‘if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it’?”
It’s quite a piece, isn’t it? I have to admit, I found it hard to take seriously while I was reading it out to my girlfriend in the aisles of Llandrindod’s local Co-op. It seems clear that there can be no rational debate with this lady. She simply won’t pay attention to an argument based on fact.
However, I have responded – not out of any animosity towards Ms Parkinson but because I wanted to reassure those who have read her letters of a few important facts. Here’s what I wrote:
“I was delighted to see that Caroline Parkinson of Nantmel found enough of interest in my last letter to respond, allowing us all the pleasure of a further insight into her remarkable mind! Sadly, there was little substance to it, being mainly a rehash of the anti-Llandrindod statements she made in her initial epistle. I’m sure most residents will have been insulted enough by her comments, without me re-opening the wounds.
“But I must take issue with two of her claims. Firstly, Ms Parkinson, I never wrote that Nantmel was Harrods to Llandod’s Co-op. Those are your words, not mine, and I think it is right that I put the record straight. It is wrong of you to try to portray me as pitting Nantmel against Llandrindod. I have no animosity towards the other residents of your village at all; I merely take issue with your opinion. I do not make false attributions of this kind. I wonder why you do.
“Also, madam, your allegation that people in Llandod spent more than they had due to greed might be credible if it was a year-round phenomenon, but it isn’t. The statistics I quoted were for Christmas only. In my last letter, you will recall, I asked to see the factual evidence behind your assertions. None has been forthcoming. I therefore invite readers to conclude that you do not have any, and to condemn your claims about debt-fuelled “societal behaviour”, “peer pressure”, “temptation”, weakness of character, greed, selfishness or whatever else you want to call it, as nonsense.
“As a candidate in this year’s Powys County Council elections, I feel proud to be standing up for the people of Llandrindod in this matter.”