There is a conspicuous notice on my porch door, saying “NO JUNK MAIL” in bright red lettering, but it might just as well not be there for all the defence it provides. So I’ve resigned myself to receiving a daily batch of unwanted stuff and only pick out an item or two at random for a quick glance. But in the past week three items of huge entertainment value made me realise that sometimes there is more to junk than meets the eye, although not in the way the senders intended…
To start with, I opened a posh-looking invitation from a firm that specializes in making your Will fool-proof, weeding out imprecise bits and – h’m – making sure your loved ones don’t pay too much inheritance tax. All very straightforward and unexciting. But as I looked down the list of services on offer, one item leapt off the page. It said: MARRIAGE AFTER DEATH. I caught my breath, closed my eyes, looked again, but there it was, opening up huge new possibilities, for it meant that not only was life after death seen as a certainty, at least by this specialist firm, it also opened the door to posthumous bliss. Just think of the countless broken romances and grand passions that – never mind why – didn’t reach a happy conclusion, consider the sadness, the regrets and might-have-beens that could be deleted from broken hearts (this is where the incurable romantic in me was taking over) …but how did a serious City firm achieve this miracle?
Well, it didn’t, Marriage after death didn’t, after all, refer to the lovelorn ghost but to the surviving spouse, although the specialist firm seemed more sympathetic to the former than to the latter. The question was simple: what would happen if I died, leaving my all to my spouse, who then went off and got married again? How unromantic and materialistic, what a let-down. Still, it had yielded a minute or two of happy fantasies.
Next there was the large letter marked “Strictly Personal”. And it sounded like that, too. It told me that I had been selected personally for a very special exclusive offer that was not, repeat not, open to the general public. It gave some flattering reasons for choosing me as one of the few who received this rare privilege. And although what was on offer didn’t interest me in the least, the flattery value was high, and I quite fancied myself as a special model customer, chosen for my probity, excellent credit rating and trustworthiness. It didn’t occur to me to wonder how they knew all this about me before. looking at the envelope again, which is when the fantasy – and my ego – crashed. The envelope was addressed to “The Householder”.
After this all junk went straight into the recycling box, until a mailing arrived from a cat protection charity, festooned with pretty pictures of pussycats. (Why are all cats so fabulously photogenic?) Yes, it was a request for a donation, like most things that come in the post these days, but in return I was offered some Cat Facts which cheered me up at once. For instance I learned that cats can produce more than one hundred vocal sounds but are unable to taste anything sweet; moreover, that they spend two-thirds of their lives asleep, so that a nine-year-old cat will only have been awake for three years.. And then came the fact to crown it all: “A group of cats is called a Clowder, a group of kittens is a Kindle.”
What a gem!. I shall never again be able to look at anyone busy gazing at their Kindle, reading some fascinating text ranging from Dante or Herodotus to Agatha Christie or Hilary Mantel, without realising that in that flat box, beneath the print, there is a group of enchanting, lively, but soundless kittens eternally cavorting around, without the slightest interest in literature. I may even dig out the Kindle I once bought and have never used, being too fond of real paper books. But knowing about those kittens may change my mind. Miaouw.