14 July 2022


That is me.

By Robert Kilconner

The disappointing thing is that I already knew. How could that not have been the case? Of Jewish maternal descent and living in North London, I was well aware of being one of God’s chosen people so that when an email arrived headed “you have been chosen” the news seemed rather stale. Odd, though, that the Almighty should decide to communicate by email. Some writing on the wall would follow precedent or perhaps, if it was to be done in style, a quiet whisper delivered against a background of earthquake, wind and fire with a few cherubim and seraphim padding around in the background. Oh well, times are hard at the moment and everyone is cutting back so maybe it’s no surprise that the Kingdom of Heaven has decided to simplify the way in which it delivers its messages.  Anyway, judging God’s way of communicating is a bit beyond my pay grade so, with a little nod to the East, I simply opened the email and read it.

Actually it was rather better than I thought. I was not just one of the Chosen People, which I knew already, but had been chosen for a special offer of toner for my electric printer. It was an excellent offer and, my printer having been bought before the day when they restricted ink cartridges to “own brand”, just the sort of thing that would interest me. The trouble is that six months ago I accepted a similar offer and there are already six cartridges of toner sitting on my study floor. Now I know that you cannot have too much of a good thing but six cartridges are going to last me quite a long time. Roughly speaking I get through a cartridge every year but as I do more and more of my filing online my requirement for ink is beginning to drop. Say it dips to half the current rate; then my existing supply will last 12 years.

Now I already have a problem with wine. Delicious sounding en primeur offers drop through the mailbox and I am just about to place my order when I see the drinking window. Fully mature in 15 years time, quite a wait; and I’m already in my 70s, hmm, could be rather more than a wait. I do not buy wines which will probably be enjoyed by my executors and on the same basis will not buy toner for their printers. All further purchases can wait ‘till I have used up the existing stock.

Still, it is always nice to be on a select list, a member of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot or of the Stewards at Henley perhaps. To be on the list of appropriate recipients for toner may carry slightly less cachet but at least it lets you look down on those who are not on the list at all. Who are they and why have they been excluded?

In the old days of brandy smuggling, the residents of Cornwall carefully distinguished between those who were on the inside and those who were not. Insiders, identifiable by their covet manner, the parrots on their shoulders and the leers and winks with which they greeted you in the street, could be trusted not to give you away to the Excise. Outsiders, to be found walking the streets straight-backed reading prohibitionist tracts, were quite another kettle of fish and their exclusion from the local economy no doubt meant that they were looked down on with contempt by Jim-lad and his friends. Is there a similar distinction in the world of printer ink? To print or not to print maybe the question for the consumer but those who supply the cartridges have a different judgement to make. Is this person fit to be trusted with good quality toner? What fecklessness would be indicated if the answer to that question was “no”? What weakness of character, what terrible fat-fingeredness? The value of my email is that this nightmare of exclusion will never be realised in practice.

Tile image: by Guillermo Diaz on Unsplash

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