London Note

Feb. 26 2002 2:44 PM

London Note

Junk mail.

If it isn't bad enough that Londoners live with a street-crime epidemic unparallelled since the creation of a government-run police force in the 19th century, the capital's inhabitants must also accept that a precondition for living here is a daily deluge of junk mail. Half a kilo of junk mail spewed through one letterbox in West London this morning. Among the items was a leaflet for Salena Jones, a restaurant in Uxbridge Road (not far from the now famous Nando's chicken parlour) promising gigs by different musicians every night. There was an eight-page Safeway's flyer advertising a "Booze Bonanza!" with cut-price beer, wine, and Scotch; as well as special deals on Corn Flakes (9.8 pence per 100 grams); loose seedless grapes (£1.30 per kilo); and wholemeal bread (4.2 pence per 100 grams). A cheaper flyer from the Liberal Democrats, entitled "Focus on Ravenscourt Park", contained news about the party's local activities, including an inspection of paving stones in Flora Gardens and broken street lamps in Cardross Street. (That should rattle the sitting Labour MP.)

Boots, the chemist, were promoting their "half-price frames when bought as complete spectacles" (who buys incomplete spectacles these days?), while Carpet & Fabric Care announced their "Standard", "Silver", and "Gold" cleaning services. The "Silver Service" had the "added advantage of our CONDITIONING, SANITISING and DEODORISING treatments, perfect for households with children, pets or smokers etc." The "Gold Option", its "top of the range clean", included "our PROTECTIVE treatment to repel soiling and staining with built-in anti-static". Enticing as all of these offers were, none was quite as arresting as a letter that arrived from a company in Brighton:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am currently in your area wishing to buy the following. Ladies/gents wrist watches, pocket watches, clocks in any condition even if they are beyond repair. Meat plates, tea-coffee sets, vases, figures, bowls, decanters and wine glasses. All types of silver plates, tea-coffee pots, trays, cutlery, fish knife-forks, spoons, loose or in boxes, cigarette cases, medals. All items of brass, copper, pewter, picture frames, furniture, paintings—prints, mirrors, bedroom furniture. Any piece of broken jewellery, pendants, rings, brooches, necklaces, bracelets, dress jewellery. My representative or myself will be calling today or tomorrow. Thank-you

The objects listed are the kind of things one would expect an old- fashioned thief to steal from one's home. Today's robbers are more interested in expensive electronics, computers, and gadgets, which are quickly disposed of and hard to trace. But the wish list of this curious Brighton company is reminiscent of another age, when robbers didn't have guns and went about their business when they were sure householders were asleep or away.

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