Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Last Post

So, a national postal workers' strike, planned for Friday, is now "inevitable", eh? Well, I'm glad the Guardian has made that public, or I may never have noticed.

Not too long ago, the Royal Mail was a fine British institution, run with military precision, upon which you could absolutely rely. I have fond memories of passing the local sorting office (now, sadly, abandoned) at 7:00AM each day, and being impressed - and, I admit, slightly amused - as a small army of heavily laden postmen burst forth.

Shiny red paintwork gleaming on their official bicycles, their pristine uniform trousers held in check by cycle clips (no tucking of legs in socks here!) the mounted vanguard would proceed across the car park in tight formation, before dispersing to their individual rounds at the gate. In their wake came the foot soldiers, marching on to their walks with pride and vigour.

This ritual happened at least twice a day, Monday to Friday, regular as clockwork - you could pretty much set your watch by the time the post arrived. Postie was a valued part of the local community, knowing most of their customers by name, correctly delivering even poorly addressed mail to its eager recipient. They were a welcome, friendly face who often kept a helpful eye on the elderly and infirm.

What the hell happened? These days, there is just one domestic delivery per day, and that could be at just about any time - my post arrives at seemingly random times from early morning to late afternoon, if it arrives at all. What use is that in the modern age, where more and more people are being encouraged to work from home?

As for the individuals employed to actually shove letters through doors - are these people trained, at all? Are they even trainable? What part of a damn great "DO NOT BEND" sign, printed on a stiffened cardboard envelope, do they not understand? Apparently all of it, for, despite the practical difficulty of actually bending this resistant piece of post, and then of forcing it through my fairly narrow letterbox in its deformed state, this happens to me with depressing regularity.

And then there's the issue of house numbers, road names and post codes. As I understand it, the purpose of these fairly simplistic devices is to enable postie to actually deliver mail to the correct address. Why, then, do I regularly get mail intended for destinations in which all elements of the address - recipient's name, house number, road and postcode - bear no resemblance to my own? I might be a little more forgiving if these items arrived in splendid isolation, but they are usually accompanied by a raft of correctly addressed bills. Is it beyond the wit of modern postpeople to notice this?

Uniforms. Well, I say uniforms, but, by definition, the concept of uniforms means that all posties should be dressed alike, and, one would hope, with a degree of care. The randomly various individuals who inexpertly thrust random pieces of mail in the general direction of my letterbox tend to more closely resemble the losers in an Oxfam trolley dash.

Add to this the ever-increasing cost of stamps - 34p for a first class stamp, which doesn't even guarantee next-day delivery!! - and the byzantine new system for deciding how much it actually costs to post a letter, and I'm not at all surprised that the Royal Mail is in terminal decline. Who actually needs it? All they do is deliver bills, junk mail and letters for people I've never heard of, several days after the sender could reasonably have expected them to arrive.

Most of my communication is done by email and fax, purely because the Royal Mail is so unfailingly inept - if I need to send a package, I use a courier, which is often cheaper than the postal service anyway. So postie is going on strike. Foolish people. Do they not realise that the service they provide is so dire that most people are more than happy to seek alternatives, and absence of that service is just one more reason to look elsewhere?

No, of course not. If they can't find the right address, they're unlikely to correctly recognise their own foot as they shoot themselves in it, are they? Privatise the lot em, I say - maybe then we'll get back to a service that actually works.

Billy Seggars

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