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Sunday, May 09, 2004

The great thing about living in a village is the way we all love and support each other, living in a constant state of bliss and harmony, and no one has a bad word to say about a fellow resident.

The other great thing is the stirling comedy work being done on a regular basis by contributors to the letters page of 'The Shotley Noticeboard', a local publication which comes out six times a year, and frequently runs to as many as four pages.

I remember with fondness the letter from an individual who stated that she'd moved to Shotley Gate just two weeks earlier, and was already writing to complain about local dog owners, and the fact that people were so much nicer where she lived before. That's what I call fitting in.

But I digress. The last issue of The Shotley Noticeboard featured a letter from Linda Tonkin, a local resident who wanted to politely complain about the parking problems caused by parents who needlessly pick up their children by car from Shotley Primary School. I actually agree with Linda, but the difference of course is that I'd never put my name to a letter in The Shotley Noticeboard. Not that anyone would actually take the trouble to launch a personal attack on Linda in the next issue. Oh no, not at all.

Well maybe just a bit. The latest issue has dropped through my letterbox this lunchtime (meaning that the people who deliver it weren't attending the May Fair at the village hall. They should be ashamed of themselves. I might write to the Shotley Noticeboard about them), and it features one of the finest comedy letters of recent months. Sadly the name of the author is not supplied, which is a great shame, because it's rare to see humour written this well. The letter begins:

"Dear Sir,
I am writing in response to the letter from Linda Tonkin in the March/April issue. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Linda's valid comments of parking outside school, I would like to point out that ***** ******* also causes many problems for drivers..."

Now clearly we have one of Linda's "wholehearted" supporters here. However, you may have noticed that I've blanked out two words in the above extract. So come with me now and play "Guess the Issue"!! The question, dear readers, is...

Alongside the valid issue of parking outside school, what is the OTHER main source of problems for local drivers?

Think carefully now. Could it be the inappropriate speed limits? Farm vehicles on the roads? Loose livestock? Drunks driving home from Shotley Sailing Club? (I'm talking hypothetically there).

You'll kick yourself. No, the answer is far more obvious. Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest hazard facing the Shotley motorist, is...

[fanfare please]


Well at least according to the author of this letter. Let's enjoy some more of this wisdom...

"... I would like to point out that Linda herself also causes many problems for drivers, especially on the winding road to school. There are many impatient drivers who I have witnessed on many occasions, overtaking Linda's trike on blind corners. I do not think that she realises the problems that she causes especially when she cycles alongside her daughter. I must also voice my concern about the occasion recently when I encountered Linda on her trike with her daughter in the basket at the back and neither of them were wearing a cycle helmet."

Well I say lock her up. Either that, or make her use a car like everyone else. If you get there early Linda, you can bag one of the best spots on the zig-zag lines by the school gates.

And another thing, does Linda have a very large basket, or a very small daughter? You have to wonder.

But still, with great comedy, you need a great punchline. And this contributor did not disappoint. Having "agreed wholeheartedly" with Linda, by portraying her as the biggest threat to the British motorist since the fuel crisis of 2000, the author of this letter finishes with these immortal words:

"This is not an attack on Linda."

That's almost worth a round of applause.