Bunhill: Answering back

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DONTCHA just hate those new 'voice mail' machines that are spreading like a virus across the swankier banks in London? The problem is they are too good. You ring up, someone - speaking with bell-like clarity - answers, you talk back and then wonder why the other chap is still talking. Users don't like them either. 'They're terribly efficient,' says a Warburg's man, who has been afflicted for two months. These monstrosities should be abolished, taxed or, at the very least, stuffed with cotton wool so the voice sounds distorted like a proper answering machine.

THE letters page of the Gazette, the weekly magazine of the John Lewis Partnership, is a gold mine. Partners, as the employees are known, write in with their every moan and sign themselves 'Fish in the Mainstream' or 'Burt Reynolds' Double'. Here is a sample from the sartorially stringent 'Only making plans for Nigel'.

'Also,' OMPFN writes, 'I have noticed in this branch that a lot of females are not wearing tights. How often is this checked? Is that a professional, business-like standard of dress? Or what about section managers and department managers who wear black underwear under what can only be described as a see-through vest? Is that being well- groomed? I think not.'

(Photograph omitted)