HAVING been away for a week I have had to catch up with mail referring to columns past.
David Whitworth, for instance, sympathised about name confusion. I confessed I was poor with names and that I had frequently been mistaken for old friend and colleague David Hammond.
"Ever since the singer became famous, I've been frequently referred to as David Whitfield – even in print," says David (Whitworth, that is). "Some years ago I joined the local branch of the Advanced Motorists Association. When I passed my advanced driving test I was announced at the meeting as David Whitfield. And that's the way it appeared in The Examiner, too. That chap’s been the bane of my life."
Just as long as people don't expect you to sing, David.
Maxine Swinden was prompted to write after I wrote about how Bill Shankly brought Denis Law from Aberdeen to Huddersfield Town.
"My late husband told me that Denis used to lodge with his auntie and uncle down Cross Lane in Newsome,’’ said Maxine. "My husband used to kick a football with him on the Rec."
That was in the days before footballers became instant millionaires, when they travelled to home matches on a corporation bus and kicked footballs around on the local Rec.
JCH (also known as Clint Dupree) has written in praise of his mother-in-law after reading that mine had died in America.
"I, too, am blessed with a great mother-in-law who has been at the back of us with help and advice throughout the last 39 years,’’ he said. "Even though she is in her 80s she still does a myriad of things for her local church and can also make one heck of good corned beef hash!"
There were also a couple of emails from readers who sadly pointed out that I had got it wrong when I said that Dennis the Menace would qualify for a bus pass because he had reached the age of 60.
"I’m afraid Dennis the Menace is in for a disappointment re his bus pass," said Susan Branton. "I will be 60 on Saturday and I have got to wait another 11 months and six days, so he will have to carry on paying like me."
And George Healey added: "Just to let you know that poor Dennis the Menace will not get his bus pass on his 60th birthday. West Yorkshire Metro, in conjunction with Kirklees, have changed the rules. You are now only eligible for a bus pass when you reach the pensionable age of a female, whatever sex you are. So Dennis will not qualify for his pass until the March 6, 2012. Yours, disgruntled 60-year-old."
HAROLD MacMillan told us we had never had it so good in the 1950s.
If we use natural progression, scientific advancement, superior health care and the size of colour TV screens as a yardstick, I suppose Harold’s assessment is still correct.
As years go by basic facilities improve and the working class no longer have outside loos or keep coal in the bath.
In fact, we have had it so good that the working class has become middle class. A recent survey showed that 70% claimed this designation.
They follow in a long line of upwardly mobile aspirants. John Prescott, for instance, the two fisted champion of the working man, declared his change of status when he became an MP by saying: "I no longer keep coal in the bath. I keep it in the bidet."
The survey on class is, of course, a load of spheroids, as it was an exercise in self classification in which the major criteria was whether you used a cafetiere and were best friends with Cath Kidston.
Declaring yourself middle class shows aspirations, but not everyone wants to be like Hyacinth Bucket. And even choosing to be middle class is fraught with shades of doubt. Are you lower, middle or upper middle class?
Indeed, 24% said they were working class. Did this mean they had lower aspirations? Is there a stigma in working? I mean, we can’t all be bankers, now can we?.
I have always viewed myself as working class because of my background – generations of miners and Irish forefathers who came here to escape the famine – but even my own daughters claim I am now part of the new middle class.
Not that it helps in any way when it comes to paying the bills.
Do I sound bitter? It’s probably because I am still trying to understand the Budget and work out what its consequences will be.
Pensions, for instance. It was trailed last year that the government would introduce a basic flat rate pension of £140.
In the Budget, however, it became clear this would not apply to existing pensioners and would take years to introduce by which time it will be worth fourpence.
Of course we live in difficult financial times and the Prime Minister has said we will all have to make sacrifices before the country recovers. But why do I get the feeling that the poor are getting poorer while the rich will hardly feel the pinch? The new middle classes will also struggle. A name change will not help them.
The price of food and petrol continue to rise, wages are static, redundancy rife, unemployment on the up, the basic state pension a joke and the price of a pint is going up yet again. Never mind, the Chancellor took a penny off a litre of petrol.
As Harold said, we’ve never had it so good and, in terms of natural progression, he is right. So why does it feel so bad? Why does it feel unfair?
And why do I always want to call bankers something else?