Magazine article The Spectator

Getting My Goat

Magazine article The Spectator

Getting My Goat

Article excerpt

A perplexing email has arrived from one John Roskam at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia. In the subject field it says: 'Hey!

What did I miss? Xxx'.

I have racked my brains but am reasonably sure I have never met Mr Roskam. What's more, I'm comfortably of the opinion that I have never solicited kisses from him. As I read on, he informs me that the Australian government has just passed a new law stipulating how much insecticide you're allowed to have in goat fat. What I'm supposed to do about all this - the goat fat, the kisses, the things Mr Roskam might have been missing - is not made clear. But it is now weighing heavily on my mind. Perhaps Mr Roskam would like to get in touch again to let me know how I can help. Could he confirm whether he really does desire my amorous attention, or whether, as I suspect, his longdistance protestations of love are a cruel scam and he actually wants me to write an article about overbearing insecticide regulations.

Of course, Mr Roskam is not the only one at it. My inbox is stuffed full of emails from strangers drenching me in overfamiliar hi!'s and how are ya?'s. It's all a far cry from the good, honest, decent way corporations used to try to manipulate you. We used to know where we were with cold calling. Someone would ring up, say, 'Can I speak to the home owner?' and bombard you with talk of double-glazing.

Those were simple, halcyon days.

Furnished immediately with details of what was being foisted on you, you could make speedy arrangements to make it go away.

My father had a trusted method. He would politely tell whoever was calling, no matter what they were selling, that he already had lots of it, whatever it was. 'Oh, that's very kind of you to offer, ' he would tell the man from Everest, 'but my wife and I had a lovely new set of UPVC windows installed only last week. Yes, and a conservatory. It certainly is a very tasteful enhancement. . . ' And so on until the man from Everest actually put the phone down on him.

Now cold calling is so complicated, its purpose so hidden behind layers of obfuscation, it is quite impossible to escape. You know the drill. Your phone rings. There is a long gap during which you are forced to embarrass yourself by saying, 'Hello? …

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