Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

I yearn for old days when trust and loyalty were common values

I watch Downton Abbey. Not sure why, but I feel I have to whisper that, apologetically. Probably because so many people slag it off as lowbrow nonsense so I'm a little embarrassed to enjoy something that's not considered "quality" by the sort of people who'd happily sit through five hours of Wagner's The Ring, without wondering when they'll get the chance to nip to the loo.

So, I'm not too highbrow when it comes to Sunday night. I want escapism.

Yes, yes, it'd be much better if I watched Andrew Marr explaining the history of the world, I might learn something, get a broader perspective etc etc... I know all that. But sometimes, like Nigel out of Spinal Tap, you can just have "too much f*****g perspective".

Sometimes you just want drama, not real life.

And sometimes drama gives you a moment of real life that's more touching than anything "real".

In Downton Abbey, awful as the whole class system was, I have noticed something that is sadly missing in our modern world.

I may not like the upper classes and their patronising manner to their servants, but there is a loyalty and an unspoken sense of duty that I wish we had in our day-to-day interactions.

I was struck by this twice last week. Once on reading that Mike Harding, the long-standing Radio Two folk presenter, has been axed from his Wednesday night show, by phone, after 15 years of presenting and after having raised listenership from 70, 000 to 860,000. Apparently the only time the BBC Controller ever called him, was to sack him.

My mind boggles at both the manner of the sacking and the fact of it. The only explanation he was given was that his show isn't live.

So what? The man's a respected expert and fosterer of talent.

He's made folk music mainstream for a lot of people and for that he gets the boot? Loyalty, eh? Doesn't it count for anything anymore?

The same day I read about Mike Harding, I rang an oil company to order oil as I'd run out.

As usual, I checked a cheapest oil website. My normal company, instead of being the cheapest was around seventh this time.

I looked at the cheapest, but you can only order their oil online and I realised that having run out, I felt the need to speak to a human being for the comfort of being assured that oil would be delivered the next day.

So I reverted to what I know and rang my usual supplier. I mentioned to the young guy who answered, that I'd gone with them even though they weren't the cheapest.

"Loyalty, it still counts for something doesn't it?" I said.

"No" came the reply.

"Oh", I thought.

I came off that call feeling depressed.

Not about paying an extra seven pounds for oil, but because in all the talk of money and discounts and "getting the best price", the notion of trust and respect has been lost entirely.

No doubt both that young man on the phone and the BBC executive have had some "training" in customer service and personnel management.

Money wasted obviously.

You don't need a consultant to tell you that people want respect and loyalty is to be valued.

Maybe I'm just gettin' old.

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