Preview: The Morello letters, *Pen pal to the stars*

Mr Morello is a slightly confused, pear-shaped 45-year-old Italian immigrant
living with his larger, plump wife Mrs Morello and three children ­ Tosti,
Amphora and Rizzo ­ in that salubrious London suburb: Ealing.

As a family, they share a curious fondness for all things British and yet by
dint of their Italian heritage, struggle to come to terms with some of our more
esoteric traits.

As such, the ever-inquisitive Mr Morello, a fastidious and prodigious letter
writer, takes it upon himself to correspond with the great institutions and
individuals of our fine nation ­ from Tony Blair, Richard Branson and the
Archbishop of Canterbury, to Gordon Ramsay, the Bank of England and the Guild of
Professional English Butlers. In an attempt to have his seemingly endless list
of quandaries answered by the experts and, at times, in vain attempts to secure
employment for his idling children, he also picks on Winters Chartered
Accountants. Partner Andrew Mole proves to be more than a match for Mr Morello.

The letters, composed in a bizarre English-Italian hybrid vernacular, and the
plethora of responses from the great and not so good, follow a long and
successful tradition of prankish correspondence, as pioneered by Lazlo Toth and
Henry Root. The Morello Letters is a good-natured exploration of British customs
and idiosyncrasies.

The author, Duncan McNair, a City solicitor whose clients
include many London accountants, explains… 

*                   *

It was 1996. I’d bought a hairbrush at Boots. One use and
the teeth fell out. So I wrote to the chairman, adopting the identity of
Mr RM Morello, a
pear-shaped 45-year-old Italian gent living in Ealing with his larger plump wife
and three idling children. Back from Boots came three letters, an apology and a
£5 token. Not much for a litigation lawyer, but a start.

It wasn’t the money as much as the response to the character of Mr Morello
that inspired further letters – a guarded politeness with just a glimmer of
incredulity. The man from Basildon Bond was created and Mrs Morello’s escritoire
was placed on full alert. Letters issued forth to the great and the good:
statesmen, celebrities, bishops, aristocrats, taxidermists, goat club owners,
nudists and accountants. The responses received were often unwittingly

Tony Blair was asked for help in a school project on ‘Governing Britain’ for
the Morellos’ seven-year-old son, Rizzo. Classmates asked if he was married to
the Queen. Did he have to wash the windows at Buckingham Palace? Did he wear a
crown at meetings? The Prime Minister’s office apologised for being unable to
answer each question individually but provided a fact sheet of information about
the premier: his favourite colour (red), his favourite film
(Casablanca) and his favourite Shakespeare play (Julius

The Morellos run a menagerie in their back garden – perfect cover for absurd
enquiries on animal husbandry and related topics. Selfridges was asked if Mrs
Morello (who has wobbly ankles) could bring her guide goat Enoch with her on the
escalators to the soft furnishings department (fourth floor) to inspect the

And a letter to Winters, chartered accountants: Mr Morello had worked there
happily until he left in 1993. He now believes he left a banana in his desk and
would like to collect it on Tuesday. It’s yellow and slightly curved, should
that help?

The letters have appealed vastly beyond my expectations. I had great fun
doing them. So many replies, and everyone I asked agreed to publication. The
humour is gentle and the characters disarming – completely hapless.

The Morellos’ finest hour? Perhaps this was persuading the (then) Archbishop
of York to agree to Rizzo’s baby gerbil being named after him, as Mrs M was
convinced there was a strong physical resemblance.

Extensive correspondence ensued on the mite’s living arrangements, concluding
only on me breaking cover. Hilarity ensued. Just a frisson of apprehension on my
part when the archbishop invited me for tea…

the pdf
: here’s one of Mr Morello’s excentric letters, to Winters Chartered

Morello Letters: Pen Pal to the Stars’
, by Duncan McNair, is published by
Harper Collins price £9.99.

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