"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book

Subscribe

A letter to the head of Thames Water about my hosepipe ban - Benedict Nightingale

Blog | By Benedict Nightingale | Aug 15, 2022

Picture by Nandhp

40 Broomhouse Road, SW6 3QX

August 12 2022

Dear Sarah Bentley,

You say on your website that my “happiness is at the heart of everything we do.” Good. I am an unhappy customer of Thames Water writing to you, its CEO, to say why I cannot respect your impending hosepipe ban, though I do have a quid pro quo to offer, as will become apparent later in this email

My wife and I have lived in the same Fulham house for 56 years, tending what we like to call our garden at the back. Actually, this is a misnomer, as it’s really a small patio or yard: a rectangle of paving with earth, shrubs and flowers on three sides, each barely more than a yard in length. These tend to get shabby and do need watering, which we do more occasionally than we should. Even our little olive tree can sometime look needy and parched.

Now I’m 83 and in questionable health. After a fall one of my arms has been damaged, can’t sustain weights, and is currently being looked after in the Fracture Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital here in Fulham. I can’t and won’t lug buckets of water, which presumably you’d allow, but I can just about direct our rather pathetic apology for a hosepipe at our sad but beloved apology for a garden.This I plan to continue to do in my usual sporadic way.

I would greatly object to being judged by Thames Water, which is despised in this area, and not just because of its very disrupting Tideway Tunnel, which will run into the Thames not far from my house. You are, as you know, infamous for your leakage of good water – an average of 605 litres a day for Heaven’s sake! - andfor dispatching billions of untreated sewage into the Thames and elsewhere. Fines have followed. Phrases like “shocking and disgraceful” have been used by judges. I myself have stood in our street with some of our neighbours watching water stream down and come close to getting into our houses. We of course reported it but it took an age for anything to be done about it.

I’m sorry to be rude, Sarah, but you are the CEO of a truly awful company, a monopoly that has no moral right whatever to impose bans on its long-suffering, long-paying customers.

However, I am prepared to make a concession to you during any hosepipe ban. I will take no baths. I will limit myself to one shower a week, as was the case when I was at boarding school in the early 1950s. This may well make me smelly, but that’s a sacrifice I am prepared to make. You are welcome to send a subordinate to subject me to a sniff test, thus confirming I am keeping my word.

It’s conventional nowadays to sign oneself, “kind regards”. I’m afraid I have to end with: not-very-kind regards,

Benedict Nightingale

PS I wouldn’t begrudge you your salary of £750,000, plus a £496,000 bonus last year, if you could show you’d earned it. My poor little hosepipe wants to know.