Parkinson’s Laws’ – does anybody remember them? One was, ’Work expands according to the amount of time available for its completion’. Well, I’ll add another: ‘The bigger the company, the harder it is to contact them’.

Take the Forestry Commission, now called Forest England, I think. Almost three months ago we set off down the road of gaining a felling licence for some trees. All on-line, of course; no human contact involved. We thought we were about there, but last week a request arrived for more information, a questionnaire five pages long. Can we speed this up by arranging a meeting on site? No chance, the writer is based in Surrey We reckon to fell the trees in winter, so maybe next year now.

And then there’s Severn Trent Water; some of my tussles with them have lasted for years. Recently we have received increasingly threatening letters about a leaking water main near our sawmill. The supply is shared with a neighbour, who proposed we engage a specialist leak finding firm for about £800.00. I said hang on a minute, my staff tell me it dries up when there’s no rain. So I tried ringing the ‘Customer Care’ number in Darlington, where the most recent letter came from. After fifteen minutes of being told how important my call was to the, I was answered by a real person. And what’s more, the actual person whose name was on the letter. He agreed to send their ‘leaks team’ again, with my staff in attendance. And guess what; there is no leak! I feel as though I’ve won battle, but it should’t be so; the local firms we deal with never give us these problems.