Andy has a friend who was a single parent until recently, thanks to the intervention of the twinned-headed miracle beast, Tinder and middle-aged desperation. She has a son, Nicholas, who had known some hard times during his short life, what with being born and brought up in Reading, and she wanted to treat him one Christmas to the present he most craved. He was ten in the November of the year she told him:
"I have bought you two presents this Christmas."
"Two?!" He looked at his mother with eyes so wide he could have been auditioning for a John Lewis Christmas advert.
Nicholas had never known such benificence in all of his years and could barely sleep during the month he opened the doors of his advent calendar, fashioned out of a Weetabix box and pictures cut from the Argos catalogue. For what he wanted most, and had wanted for all the time he could remember, was a bike. On Christmas Eve, when Nicholas finally agreed to go to bed with eyes squeezed tight to invite sleep, his Mum wrapped the bike loosely with previously enjoyed wrapping paper, before turning her attention to his second gift; a bell for its handlebars.
At five o'clock the next morning Andy's friend was woken by her son who begged her to allow him into the living room to unwrap his gifts. After 15 bleary-eyed minutes she acceded and followed him into the room, where he saw his wrapped bike, its bell being kept separate for dramatic effect. She watched as he carefully unwrapped his present, as if savouring every crinkle of paper, waiting for his reaction. When fully revealed Nicholas calmly inspected his new bike in a silence that she had never predicted. After about 20 long seconds Nicholas turned to her and said:
"You said there were two presents?"
What Andy's friend must have felt at that moment would have been reflected today in the reaction of Alok Sharma, Robert Jenrick and 00 Sunak, having excitedly opened a letter from Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality's chief executive. Despite all that landlords have suffered this year, the hits they have taken and the CVAs from which they have emerged battered and broken the ministers cannot have expected a fresh plea to help ease the financial crisis facing the sector, asking for action to force landlords to waive at least half the rent they were owed during operators' enforced closure.
In the letter, grumpy Kate calls for a series of rent-related measures to prevent "mass redundancies, business failures and permanent scarring of Britain's high streets".
As you know, our good friend Rishi has delayed the Job Retention Bonus while he lays down in a darkened room for ten minutes with a cold flannel over his eyes. Three minutes into this period of respite Kate was hammering on his door, saying that this delay is responsible for pushing a blunt spear through the stomachs of the hospitality business. Screaming like a crazed banshee she followed up with:
"This loss cannot be overstated in terms of the rent debt as it dramatically affects cashflow and the ability to pay landlords."
Is it just us in the NTI newsroom, who are not exactly sporting the away shirt of Team Landlords, but does this seem more than a little churlish?
Perhaps we should buy her a bell.