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The song “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley

January 24, 2013


I recently wrote to Elvis Presley Enterprises, the organisation which represents the dead pop singer Elvis Presley. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you regarding the lyrics of the 1962 song “Return To Sender” by Elvis Presley. In case you are not familiar with the song, the lyrics are as follows:

Verse 1
I gave a letter to the postman
He put it in his sack
Bright and early next morning
He brought my letter back

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone
We had a quarrel, a lover’s spat
I write “I’m sorry”, but my letter keeps coming back

Verse 2
So then I dropped it in the mailbox
And sent it special D
Bright and early next morning
It came right back to me

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown
No such person, no such zone

Verse 3
This time I’m gonna take it myself
And put it right in her hand
And if it comes back the very next day
Then I’ll understand

The writing on it
Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone
Return to sender
Return to sender
Return to sender
(Repeat to fade)

You can see that I have included the sub-titles “verse 1″, “verse 2″, “verse 3″ and “chorus”. Please note these are for reference purposes only and are not sung as part of the song itself.

My first concern relates to the sequence of events described in verse 1.

The first line of verse 1 describes Elvis Presley giving his letter to the postman. Let us say that Elvis Presley gives his letter to the postman on day x. Assuming that the postman does his job properly and that the rest of the postal service is operating efficiently, the earliest day on which Elvis Presley’s lover will receive the letter is day x + 1. If Elvis Presley’s lover then acts promptly, marking the letter with the words “return to sender” (as described in the chorus) and posting the letter in a timely manner, then the earliest day on which the postman will bring the letter back to Elvis Presley is day x + 2; not, as line 3 of verse 1 would have us believe, “bright and early next morning” (in reality, due to a combination of human error and unavoidable delays, and bearing in mind that a weekend might be included in the sequence of events, there is every chance that the letter would be returned later than day x + 2).

It would therefore be more accurate and/or realistic to say, instead of “bright and early next morning”, something along the lines of “two to three days later” or “three to four days later”.

However, there is a problem with both of these alternative lyrics: they do not scan. It is absolutely essential that the replacement lyric contains the same number of syllables as the original lyric (seven).

My suggested replacement, therefore, is as follows:

“Six to seven days later”.

But we are presented with another problem in verse 2, when Elvis Presley sends the letter “Special D”. I believe this is short for “Special Delivery” which guarantees delivery before either 9am or 1pm the next day, depending on how much one is willing to pay for the service. Either way, neither the original version, where the letter is returned bright and early next morning, nor my amended version, where the letter is returned six to seven days later, is appropriate.

I therefore propose that in this verse, instead of sending the letter “Special D(elivery)”, Elvis Presley sends it “Recorded D(elivery)”. Recorded Delivery provides proof of posting and delivery, but no guarantee of delivery times. Therefore the six to seven days later lyric could again be employed with some feasibility.

In the final verse, in which Elvis Presley proposes hand-delivering the letter, a next-day return is entirely possible, so this verse can remain “as is”.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Bright and early next morning, I received the following reply:

Dear Daniel Drummond Harvey,

The song “Return to Sender” was written in 1962 by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott.

Therefore the lyrics are theirs not Elvis’s.

Best Regards,

Archives Staff
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

I rather feel that they are just passing the buck.

Designs for Daniel O’Donnell

December 17, 2012

Daniel O'Donnell

I recently sent the following email to pop singer Daniel O’Donnell:

Dear Daniel O’Donnell,

We have (at least) one thing in common – we are both called Daniel.

I am writing to you because I have designed an exclusive range of accessories for people just like you and me, emblazoned with the slogan “Hello there! My name is Daniel.”

The range of accessories currently includes a t-shirt and a travel mug.

You may be asking yourself, why would I want a t-shirt and/or travel mug emblazoned with the slogan “Hello there! My name is Daniel”?

Allow me to explain.

When you are attending a social function (e.g. a barbecue), the t-shirt will save vital time on introductions. I don’t know about you, but when I am attending a social function the need to continuously repeat the words “Hello there! My name is Daniel” becomes more than a little tiresome, especially when you are doing it for the tenth or twentieth time (depending on the number of guests at the function).

Saving time on introductions will help to avoid missing out on other more desirable aspects of the conversation, such as discovering a mutual fondness for Tuscany.

The slogan on the travel mug has a less functional purpose – it is more “just a bit of fun” (although the travel mug itself is a highly functional item, keeping your drinks warm in all weathers, thanks to the aluminium casing’s excellent thermal qualities).

I hope that you enjoy these items as much as I hope you do!

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Daniel O’Donnell has neither responded to my email nor purchased a t-shirt or travel mug. I can only assume he is currently too busy touring his latest album “Songs from the Movies and More”.

The good news is that I have decided to open up this offer to my readers. Simply visit the “shop” page on my website to view and purchase the items mentioned above. Either item will make an ideal Christmas present for that special someone in your life named Daniel.

Donald Trump’s golf courses

December 3, 2012

Donald Trump

I recently wrote to Donald Trump, the American business magnate, television personality and author. This is what I wrote:

Dear Donald Trump,

I am sending this email to your Executive Assistant, Ms Rhona Graff, as I do not have your personal email address. I am very grateful to Ms Graff for passing my email to you. She is a very good Executive Assistant! (Assuming she has passed my email to you.)

First, let me say that I am a big fan of your property portfolio and card games. You are evidently an excellent businessman, and it is clear to me (and others) that your businesses “Trump” those of your competitors! (I am sure you have heard this joke in one form or another many times over the years, or perhaps even told it yourself in an after-dinner speech, so I hope you will excuse my little bit of fun, and I certainly hope that you did not take any offence at my using your name for humorous purposes.)

I understand you have recently built a big “golf course” in Scotland. Well done! I am not a fan of golf myself (when I have played, I have found it too difficult to hit the ball into the hole), but clearly some people are, and I am sure they will have a great deal of fun “teeing off” on the facilities you have provided. I sometimes wonder how they come up with these games! (For example, rugby.)

I understand there was a bit of a fuss when you were building the golf course, including complaints that you were destroying a dune system on a site protected by law and harassing local residents with compulsory purchase orders. Personally, I suspect that these complaints were quite unwarranted – I am sure that there are plenty of dunes and houses in Scotland, and I am equally sure that there are not enough golf courses. I must admit I haven’t been “north of the border” (the border between England and Scotland) very much myself – I find the weather a little inclement and the locals rather coarse (except for your mother, obviously) (although I never met her).

However, and here is the main reason for my writing to you, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. While I have no reason to think you are considering it, I would like to place on record that I will NOT agree to the development of my back garden into a golf course of any variety, including a “miniature” one (which would be the most size-appropriate option for my garden).

I shan’t deny that with the correct placement of a windmill and a number of other fun obstacles (such as a clown’s head), my garden has the potential to be a miniature golf course of international repute. I also appreciate that the transport links (via the M3 motorway, Winchester rail station, and Southampton international airport) are second-to-none.

Nevertheless, the inconvenience of having visitors from all over the world tramping through my side-gate at all hours (or even during restricted opening times of, say, 9am to 5pm) would be quite intolerable. If you were to arrange a separate entrance via Tovey Place, that would improve the situation somewhat, but it would still be far from ideal.

I know that you are a busy man, but I would be extremely grateful for your reassurance on this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Having waited a reasonable period of time for a response, I have received nothing. This leads me to one of two conclusions – either Rhona Graff is not a very good Executive Assistant, or my garden is in imminent danger of being developed into an international leisure facility.

A “novel” idea for Jeffrey Archer

May 16, 2012

I recently sent the following email to Jeffrey Archer, the best-selling English author and former politician whose political career ended with his conviction and subsequent imprisonment (2001–03) for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Dear Jeffrey Archer,

I have just spent a most enjoyable few moments browsing your website – the aptly named

I had no idea that you had written such a large quantity of books (twenty four by my count), including both fiction and non-fiction. I congratulate you on your prolific output!

I am actually in the process of writing a novel myself and I would be extremely grateful if you were able to give me some feedback.

Here is a brief synopsis of what I have come up with so far:

John Davidson runs a successful landscape gardening business. Unfortunately he is killed by an irresponsible drunk driver. In his will, he leaves the landscape gardening business to his daughter, Jane. To his son, David, he leaves a mysterious sealed envelope. When David opens the envelope, things are never the same again…

I haven’t yet worked out what is in the envelope, or what happens to David as a result of opening it, but I intend to make it quite dramatic. Do you think the novel has potential?

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

I received the following reply:

Many thanks for your email.

Jeffrey appreciates you taking the time to write.  I’m afraid it’s difficult for him to give you any feedback on your idea, as whatever is in the envelope is the crux of the tale. Nevertheless, he wishes you the best of luck with your story.

Kind regards,

Alison Prince
Personal Assistant to Jeffrey Archer

I replied as follows:

Dear Alison Prince and Jeffrey Archer,

Many thanks for your email and your helpful feedback regarding the contents of the envelope being the crux of the tale.

Based on your feedback, I have elaborated my idea and include a summary below. Please could you let me know what you think?

John Davidson runs a successful landscape gardening business. Unfortunately he is killed by an irresponsible drunk driver. In his will, he leaves the landscape gardening business to his daughter, Jane. To his son, David, he leaves a mysterious sealed envelope. When David opens the envelope, he finds a cheque for £10,000. This amount is based on a recent valuation of the landscape gardening business, as John Davidson was keen to ensure that his children benefited equally from his will.

Under Jane’s directorship the landscape gardening business flourishes, and by the end of the following financial year its value has reached £18,000. David knows that no standard investment vehicle will give him an equivalent return of 80% on his £10,000, so he places his £10,000 on a horse, “Legs Eleven” running in the 3.30 at Chepstow, at odds of 5 to 4 on. Will David’s horse come in, to bring his inheritance in line with that of his sister? Or will he lose everything and be forced to spend the rest of his life working as one of Jane’s “hired hands”?

Relationships are tested to the limit in this extraordinary tale of sibling rivalry.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

I have received no further response from Jeffrey Archer or Alison Prince. This makes me rather suspicious. I shall be keeping a close eye on the future novels of Jeffrey Archer – and, indeed, of Alison Prince – to ensure they haven’t “borrowed” my idea.

Is Martine McCutcheon right for Activia?

May 4, 2012

I recently sent the following email to Bruno Fromage, Managing Director of Danone UK. In case you did not know, Danone manufacture Activia, the yogurt brand with intestinal health benefits.

Dear Bruno Fromage,

Let me begin by saying that I do not intend to make any comments about your rather amusing name. I’m sure you are already quite “cheesed off” with all the jokes!

So let me get straight to the point.

As you know, the actress and singer Martine McCutcheon is the “face” of Activia’s television advertising campaign in the United Kingdom.

I certainly shan’t deny that, in many respects, she is a good choice for such a role, with her relatively attractive appearance and friendly regional accent.

However I would question whether she is really the best person to represent the health benefits of Bifidus Regularis and Bifidus Digestivum.

Martine McCutcheon is well-known for a number of reasons, including being run over by the stand-up comedian Mike Reid (in character as Frank Butcher in the BBC soap opera “Eastenders”) and appearing as a judge in the second series of ITV1’s “Soapstar Superstar”.

But perhaps what she is best known for in recent times is vomiting into the hair of pop singer Mick Hucknall.

Doesn’t this seem rather at odds with a product which promises to promote a healthy gut?

I am not suggesting for a moment that consumption of Activia had anything to do with the vomiting incident – more likely it was due to the effects of alcohol or Mick Hucknall – but it is all too easy for a connection to form in one’s mind.

For your next television advertisement, instead of Martine McCutcheon might I suggest Anneka Rice who, as far as I am aware, has never vomited on another celebrity?

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Annabel Croft (who took over from Anneka Rice on the television game show “Treasure Hunt”) might also be a good choice to replace McCutcheon.

160 years of knowledge

April 27, 2012

I recently sent the following email to Stephen Noakes, Commercial Director of Mortgages at Lloyds Banking Group. In case you did not know, Cheltenham & Gloucester is part of Lloyds Banking Group.

Dear Stephen Noakes,

As you know, there is a dizzying array of mortgage providers in the UK, and it is difficult to know where to start when deciding between them (although a good Independent Financial Adviser can certainly help).

However, you will be pleased to hear that Cheltenham & Gloucester is an institution which has always appealed to me – largely because Cheltenham was the home of the Gloster E.28/39, the first British jet aircraft prototype. (Also, Gloucester has a better-than-average dry ski slope – despite having been somewhat superseded by the superior technology of the Milton Keynes Snow Dome.)

Eager to learn more about “C&G”, and to discover why I should choose “C&G” over other mortgage providers, I paid a visit to your website. You can imagine my delight when I immediately saw a link to a page entitled “Why choose C&G?”. Unfortunately, this is precisely where the problems started.

On this page, under the sub-heading “Looking for a mortgage?”, you say:

“160 years, that’s over 1.3 million hours. Imagine the knowledge you could acquire in that time. Well, C&G has been in the mortgage business for over 160 years, so you can safely say we know a thing or two about helping customers find the right mortgage.”

Let me get straight to the point: 160 years is actually over 1.4 million hours.

Now, I can see no reason why you would downplay the number of hours in 160 years, so I can only assume this is a basic mathematical error.

And I am afraid that, for me, this immediately casts your ability to accurately calculate my mortgage repayments into doubt.

As I see it, if you were to miscalculate my mortgage repayments, it could go one of two ways:

1. You could charge me less than I actually owe. While I may not be consciously aware that I am keeping money which is rightfully yours, the fact remains that it would be akin to stealing, and I’m not sure that this is something I could live with, even on a subconscious level. Worse, if after several years of underpayment on my part you suddenly discovered your error, you might expect me to make an immediate lump-sum payment of the interest owed to you, and I would have made no provisions for this in my savings plans. Indeed, I might be forced to remortgage my house in order to meet this payment (and I would certainly consider choosing an alternative mortgage provider under these circumstances).

2. You could charge me more than I actually owe. This would mean that I would be subjected to years of unnecessary hardship through no fault of my own. If you then discovered your error and you paid me a lump sum to cover my overpayment, I would find myself suddenly thrust into a state of wealth to which I would be quite unaccustomed, and I may very well find myself indulging in the kind of frivolous expenditure which is quite out of character for someone like me.

I’m afraid that is not all. Apart from your mathematical error, I also question your premise that I could acquire a large amount of knowledge in 160 years (or 1,402,560 hours). With average life expectancy in the UK currently only around 78 years for men, I could only realistically hope to put around half of the 160 years to any use at all. Add to this the fact that, if I do live into old age, at some point a degree of mental deterioration is likely to set in, and the 160 years of knowledge that you are suggesting I could acquire becomes a rather insubstantial concept.

I might also add that the knowledge of mortgages you may have had 160 years ago is unlikely to be particularly relevant to the mortgage needs of today’s customer, and I feel quite sure that mortgage products have changed considerably in recent times. The offset mortage, for example, has only been around for 14 years (the first example being the “Virgin One Account”, launched in May 1998).

Your sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

Fortunately, I understand Chelsea Building Society is currently offering an excellent tracker rate.

Advertising divine healing

March 28, 2012

You may or may not have heard about this story. The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered a Christian group in Bath to stop claiming that prayer can heal certain medical conditions, as it could discourage people from seeking essential medical treatment.

A group of Christian MPs, led by Gary Streeter MP, has written to the Advertising Standards Authority to protest about this, demanding that the ASA produce “indisputable scientific evidence” that prayer does not work.

I have written to Gary Streeter MP as follows.

Dear Gary Streeter MP,

I am writing to congratulate you and offer you my wholehearted support following your recent letter to the Advertising Standards Authority (or the Advertising Standards Agency as you so rightly called them).

I thought one paragraph in your letter was particularly persuasive:

“You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do.”

This reminds me of an occasion when, on my way into my local branch of WH Smith to purchase a National Lottery Scratchcard, I was whistling the tune of “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” from the musical South Pacific. I purchased the National Lottery Scratchcard and upon scratching off the silver panels with a two pence coin, I was stunned to discover that I had won ten pounds! I quickly realised that this could only be because I had been whistling the tune of “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” from the musical South Pacific.

I have tried it again since, without success. However, as you say, “prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do”. Similarly, whistling “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” from the musical South Pacific doesn’t always guarantee a National Lottery scratchcard win, but sometimes it does.

I am therefore going to start advertising my services to other purchasers of National Lottery Scratchcards. I will charge them five pounds to accompany them to their local branch of WH Smith to purchase a National Lottery Scratchcard, and while doing so, I will whistle “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” from the musical South Pacific.

If the Advertising Standards Authority (or Advertising Standards Agency as you so rightly called them) raises an objection to my advertising then, like you, I will call upon them to provide indisputable scientific evidence that my method does not work.

I trust I will receive your full support on this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Drummond Harvey

If anyone would like me to accompany them to their local branch of WH Smith to purchase a National Lottery Scratchcard, while whistling “I’m Going To Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” from the musical South Pacific, please let me know.


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