A slurp of the fat cats' cream

No one gives to the poor. That would be silly. You might catch something, such as their poorness

Hunter Davies
Tuesday 25 August 1998 23:02

I WON'T hear a word against Fat Cats. They are so kind, so generous, so thoughtful, have given me so much entertainment and amusement. And money. Almost every day last week North West Water (NWW) has sent me pounds 5 - for no reason whatsoever. It's like winning the Lottery without taking part.

The money comes with a letter from Roy Rumba. I think that's his name. His signature is impossible to read, and it's not printed out underneath, but he is apparently Customer Operations Manager for NWW, West Cumbria division. In each letter, he thanks me for "my patience during the last few weeks". No problem, Roy. Just keep sending the money.

It's all to do, I think, with the tap water turning nasty in Cockermouth, eight miles away from where we live in Lakeland. There were loudhailers in the street, and leaflets in several languages (which amused the locals, as there is no ethnic community in Cockermouth, unless you count foreigners from Carlisle), warning people not to use the water. The result was mild panic. Shops ran out of bottled water. I have a friend, Jonty, with a restaurant in Cockermouth and he was told not even to wash his vegetables in tap water. Ugly rumours went round. Had Islamic fanatics poured chemicals in the water? More trouble at Sellafield?

We in Loweswater were not affected. So why are we being sent pounds 5 and an apology? Or in my case, four pounds 5's? Other locals have had two or three fivers, but I'm doing best so far. At least I thought I was. A farmer up the fellside behind us has also had a fiver - and he doesn't even have any water. Not in the NWW sense. His water comes from his own spring.

Each morning the fells ring to the sound of merry laughter as we all rush out to compare notes. How much have you got today? I say, three cheers for North West Water. In this nasty wet summer, it has cheered us up. Thank you, NWW.

"I hope you'll give it to a poor person," said my wife virtuously when the first lot arrived. You mean the poor chap who washes my Jag, or one of the shepherds looking after the Herdwicks in my fields, or one of the gardening staff in my orchard? No chance, I said.

When you are rich, free things bring enormous pleasure. And the richer you are, the more free things you get. I remember sitting with John Lennon and watching his excitement as he tore open parcels of presents from total strangers, or when Paul McCartney stayed with us on holiday. Local shops immediately sent him enormous boxes of food and wine. No one gives to poor people. That would be silly. You might catch something, such as their poorness. But if you give to the rich and famous, some of it might rub off on you.

At this very moment, Michael Owen is about to get a brand new Jaguar sports car, tied up with ribbons. Outside his front door, another nubile girl is waiting to be unwrapped. Does he need them? Does he heckers.

The NWW people have obviously realised how well off I am, observed my lovely house, seen my Jag in the drive, so the call has gone out, keep in with Hunt, shower him with money. It comes in the form of pounds 5 vouchers which can be used at around 90 High Street shops. Boots in Cockermouth have razors on special offer at present, two for the price of one. I now have enough razors to last me till I'm 157.

But why are they doing it? There could be other reasons.

1) It is a plot of Northumbria Water or Scottish Water. They want to take over NWW, so have started a campaign to make NWW look totally stupid and useless by sending out money in their name.

2) It's an eccentric millionaire. I read some years ago about a wealthy bloke who was so fed up with his squabbling family that just before he died, he opened the telephone directory at random and left all his money to the first ten names he saw. This could be happening again.

3) It's a new TV show. They are secretly filming everyone in Loweswater as they rush out, clutching their free money. My wife is probably a plant. When she said "Are you giving to the poor?" the mini video camera was actually in her pinny pocket.

4) It's a total cock-up by NWW. That's probably the likeliest explanation.

Four days ago I faxed Roy Rumba, asking for an explanation. In his letter, he says it was "exceptionally heavy rain" in the first week of August causing a local stream, Park Beck, to burst its banks. Now it so happens that his beck is just five minutes from me and I know for a fact its bank was broken back in May. Very mysterious. In the meantime we must be grateful. It does make waiting for the postman each day awfully exciting.

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