Going Postal

It’s a title that may well have been used before. Which considering that a) the post count has ludicrously crept over a 1000 and b) I’m lazy, old and forgetful this shouldn’t represent any kind of surprise or disappointment. Although more likely is such weak word play was previously generated when my disgruntled person been forced to breach the village shop threshold.

There are many, many joyful vignettes that come with rural living. The idea that three cars constitute a traffic jam, the total absence of light pollution, the wide and unfettered views from almost anywhere, being a 150 miles from London that kind of thing. However, attempting to transact any kind of business in the local shoppe is not one of them.

Unless you’ve the entire day to spare. Which, coincidentally 90{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} of the purchasing demographic appear to have. I’ve always found it odd that very old people MUST KNOW their time is near. Sightings of enigmatic fella sporting a swishy black cloak? Sounds of scythe sharpening? 5 calls a day offering grave-for-house swaps? Yet, they are happy to waste their precious remaining time on this planet selecting and de-selecting products through simple dint of banging the tin on a wrinkled nose before rejecting it on the grounds it cannot be exchanged for ration tokens.

Assuming anyone makes it to the counter before the shop closes or they pass on to the next life – “Barbara? BARBARA, old Mrs Willis has died in the vegetable aisle, drag her over to St. Mary’s can you? You’ll need the spade” – the inevitable conversation orbits around the concepts of “Grumble, mustn’t” “Friends, mostly dead” and “Weather, mostly rubbish“. Scientific research has proven that any two or more octogenarian bodies housed in Shoppe-Space will be locked in a deadly conversational embrace until one of them dies of boredom or they are separated by a crowbar.

Now for a man who struggles with any delay to important tasks such as looking out of the window, surfing the Internet, fettling bikes, shizzle and the selling of, etc, any such event fires him off in the direction of home, unprovisioned and vibrating gently. So how chilling is the prospect of something TWICE AS BAD that cannot be bypassed by simply fucking off to Morrisons? A place steeped in myth and terror; whispers of lost generations, once hardy young souls now cold and covered with cobwebs, looking unseeing through windows of fading leaflets and complex, Byzantine instructions.

Oh yes, I give you the Village Shop Post Office.

Honestly, my modest parcel* needed nothing more than a simple 2nd class transportation to Southampton. Based on the unfolding tedium of my visit, it would have been both simpler and quicker to drive it there myself. Or possibly walk if I’d set off nice and early.

Three PM. Wet Monday Afternoon. Most of the working population are doing exactly that. The rest are crammed into the Shop, snaking back from the Post Office counter encumbered by packages of a size and shape which can only mean live crocodiles are the present of choice for the discerning giver this year. By crossing the threshold, I immediately reduced the average age of the group. To about 78.

First lady, seemed to have partially passed out – head against the glass – tapping out her instructions in Morse with a butting forehead.By the time she’d signed off and wheeled arthritically away to Port, the queue was now outside the building swelled by those poor souls who’d been rebuffed by the overflowing post-box. I felt their pain, but they’d been feeling all of mine and some more of their own if any attempt was made to bypass the human chain now annexing the tinned good aisle.

I’ll only be a minute“. Damn Straight, a final minute of life before being bludgeoned by a handy tin of Sweetcorn then finished off with a vegetable medley. Next bloke up has a bag of parcels clearly augmented by a forth dimension. Hard to know who was more surprised – him or us – as each furtive dip was rewarded with yet another shabby package. Each was carefully considered, turned this way and that before – “yes you know I think I might post that why not eh, now I’m here” – being tentatively handed over the the Post Mistress.

Let me pause here to answer any cries of stereotyping. She had a badge. It said Post Mistress on it. She had another one. It said “awarded for 25 years service“. That’s life in the public sector right there. You get an award FOR MERELY STAYING ALIVE. She’d clearly seen off my sort before and showed all the acceleration and urgency of the recently departed Mrs. Willis.

Anyway back to 4 dimensional bag man and his many treasures; finally he straightened with an audible click, smiled a happy smile and declared himself entirely package free. Then Mrs POSTMISTRESS WITH TWENTY FIVE YEARS SODDING SERVICE felt the urge to point out a suspicious offering abandoned on her counter. The entire queue swore – and considering the antiquity of many of them, I have to say I was quite shocked at the fruity language directed at “Oh, silly me, may as well do it eh” /makes small wave/ “hope I’m not holding you up

Noooooooo, really I have absolutely nothing fucking better to do than stand in a Brownian motion of hair oil, medicinal lotions, denture cream and gout. Tell you what while I’m here, let me quiz my fellow queue lovers “Southampton then? From here? How long?” / “Four Hours?” / “Well he’s typed his pin in wrong again even THO HE JUST TYPED IT TWENTY SECONDS BEFORE so I reckon it’s good odds I’ll be there first. Anything I can drop off for you on the way?”

So with Mr. Alternative Post Office steaming gently here and the queue now backed up half way to Hereford, Infinite-Bag-Man shuffles off to the collective sigh of those of us still alive and into his place strides a fierce looking lady seemingly made up entirely of hairpins and support stockings “Right then, I’ve a problem with my pension, you’ll probably need to call Head Office”

Amazing how well brick burns isn’t it. It was probably all those Christmas Cards carefully abandoned once I’d innocently grabbed a stack of the Hereford Gazette and asked politely if anyone could spare me a match.

Okay I didn’t burn it down. But I could have and still had time to call the fire brigade, drive to Southampton, attend the local police office and be told that my package didn’t classify for second class post as I’d made a joke about the 25 year badge**. Although you know 45 minutes to be granted access to the dread portal guarding the franking machine probably isn’t that bad compared to say an eternity in hell, or a day in London.

Which is where I’m going on Thursday. Do they have post offices down there? Are they combustible do you know? I feel I have unfinished business.

* it had a lovely personality. Obviously.

** That might not have been it. But I was so close to hysteria by this point, it’s hard to recall exactly.

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