A correspondent writes:
Yesterday I went to Hammersmith Town Hall to buy my annual Parking Permit.
The price is up marginally. (I'm not sure how many other piecemeal rises of our local council charges there are across the board, but they may well mean that much of the much trumpeted rate cut is nullified).
There was a queue and only two members of staff serving (further cuts perhaps?).
I'd shuffled to the front of a queue that was by now about 15 or so people, when a very elderly man arrived, went straight to one of the windows and loudly asked to be served. He explained that he was 84, blind, wanted to pay his rent, and had been told previously that he wouldn't have to wait.
The teller was condescending to say the least, and it annoyed me that most of the staff at the back were tittering. He told the man to go to the back of the queue. But our intrepid visitor wasn't having it, and stood his ground. The teller continued to hold his and there was a stand-off.
I stepped forward and offered him my place. He refused, on the grounds that he had been told he wouldn't have to wait, so they should serve him. Another man in the queue, along with a couple of others shouted to the staff that the man should be served. I tried to insist that he took my place but he wasn't having any of it.
Other staff stepped in, and eventually, a woman came out from the back to take his money. While she was doing the paperwork behind, he spoke to us. he said something along the lines of, "I am a war veteran, I am blind, I'm 84, yet I'm treated like dirt." We were empathising with him.
He took out a piece of paper from his bag. In large jagged letters, was printed STRESS. "I want you to write HARRASSMENT under it," he said to a queuer. The man hesitated. No one wanted to get involved.
The staff member re-emerged with his receipt. "Thank you very much dear," he said rather softer than before. " But now I want you to write HARRASSMENT on this piece of paper for me". He handed her a thick black pen. She wrote it down.
"And NOW," he said triumphantly, "I want six photocopies of it!"