Sunday, 4 December 2022

Oldies and Youngies

My dad regularly sends me random photographs and tells me what he is up to. Sometimes his energy and commitment astound me. That's him in the green coat. He is 86. He has campaigned tirelessly against Brexit ever since the referendum was announced and onwards since the result, talking to people on the streets and writing to the local paper several times a month. This weekend the local 'Devon for Europe' group were doing what they call a 'Democracy Meter'; doing a snap poll of public opinion (200 people in 2 hours he says) by asking people to indicate support or otherwise for different issues. 
At the other end of life's journey is Aaliyah, born on Thursday 1st December to Matthew and Harshi. Despite a slightly shaky start mum and babe now doing well, and Granny Claire is over the moon.
Stay safe. Be kind. Support the nurses strike. Save our NHS.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Z is for Zero

Ten years ago I had been working for Royal Mail for ten years. Sarah sidled up to me this morning and said I was the first person to receive the new, redesigned anniversary appreciation award. I demurred and said no to the public presentation ... and it was a good thing I did because when I opened the envelope this crappy card was all they sent me. I was underwhelmed to say the least, but we saw the funny side and lots of people pitched in to talk about the random pens and badges that they had been given over the years to mark significant milestones. It came with a letter to the manager suggesting that they might want to give consideration to how to "bring the celebration to life" and how there is a "recognition toolkit" with "hints, tips and easy ideas" to help show me just how much my contribution to the company is valued. So zero is pretty much the amount that my contribution is appreciated. I think I might be revisiting my plan to write about the other ways in which Royal Mail gives zero f***s for everything except profit.

Stay safe. Be kind. Be Positive, Be Brilliant, Be Part Of It 😝.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Y is for York

This is a York. Royal Mail probably has thousands of them. My job seems consists mainly of pushing them back and forth to the cage (we still refer to it as the cage, even though since an office renovation it no longer has wire mesh walls). In the morning dozens are delivered to our office holding letters and parcels. Two or three arrive full of specials. First job is to remove them from the york and scan them into the building. Then I push the empty yorks out. When the specials are sorted I wheel in some more yorks containing the local collect parcels and the missorted parcels. Later I wheel in a couple of empty yorks ready to prepare the redelivery items. Drivers come back with items collected from post offices and we stack these on more yorks. During the day people come into the Customer Service Point and drop off packages for return. We collect these in yorks; when they are full they are wheeled out ready to be transported to the mail centre. As the posties return from delivery in the early afternoon they put their undelivered packets in empty yorks, and these are wheeled in to the cage to be booked in to the SPS system. More collections come in late afternoon. More yorks are wheeled in and out of the cage. After the collection driver leaves I tidy up the random empty yorks and stack them on the stage. They are pretty useful bits of kit. Older ones are steel and quite heavy but newer ones are aluminium. Like shopping trollies you occasionally get a temperamental one with wheels that won't go in a straight line. The base of the york lifts so they can stack inside each other when not being used. And I like the way that things in Royal Mail are designed to fit together: the yorks are sized so that four stacks of boxes fit them exactly and then 15 yorks fit exactly in the back of a lorry. 

Stay safe. Be kind. Keep your yorks in a row.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Lost Hands, Lost Husbands, Lost Poems

Ok, this has sat around for weeks and weeks unfinished so I am going to give in and just do yet another half-arsed job.

I had high hopes of 'The Fourth Hand' by John Irving after 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' and while I enjoyed it I was not as invested in Patrick as I was with Owen. It is just weird. He loses his hand in a bizarre accident, and manages for ages without, and then this woman practically insists that he have her dead husband's hand. He becomes obsessed with her. It all gets more weird. But somehow he becomes a slightly better person because of it. Having said that I am going to give you this surreal quote, concerning Zajac (Patrick's transplant surgeon), his son Rudy, and their neurotic dog Medea, because who doesn't love a good game of 'dog turd lacrosse':

"Picking up a dog turd with a lacrosse stick, especially on the run, is a lot harder than picking up a lacrosse ball. (Dog turds come in varying sizes and are, on occasion, entangled with grass, or they have been stepped on.) Nevertheless, Rudy had been well coached. And Medea's determination, her powerful lunges against the leash, gave the boy precisely what was needed in the process of mastering any sport - especially 'dog turd lacrosse,' as both father and son called it. Medea provided Rudy with competition.
Any amateur can cradle a dog turd in a lacrosse stick, but try doing it under the pressure of a shit-eating dog; in any sport, pressure is as fundamental a teacher as a good coach. Besides, Medea outweighed Rudy by a good ten pounds and could easily knock the boy down.
'Keep your back to her - attaboy!' Zajac would yell. 'Cradle, cradle - keep cradling! Always know where the river is!'
The river was their goal - the historic Charles. Rudy had two good shots, which his father had taught him. There was the standard over-the-shoulder shot (either a long lob or a fairly flat trajectory) and there was the sidearm shot, which was low to the water and best for skipping the dog turds, which Rudy preferred. The risk with the sidearm shot was that the lacrosse stick passed low to the ground; Medea could block a sidearm shot and eat it in a hurry." (p.68-9)

'On Canaan's Side' by Sebastian Barry, despite it's rather 'Cathering Cookson' cover style was well up to his usual standard. I have read several over the last decade, my most loved being 'A Long Long Way' back in 2012. I love the connections between the books; this one features Lilly who is the younger sister of Willie Dunne, and when she talked about the death of her brother it bought back for me how I felt reading the other book. Lilly falls for an old comrade of her brother's, but political circumstances contrive to force them to flee to America. She lives her life there, fearful and unwilling to contact her family. She loses two husbands but finds herself unexpectedly with a grandson, who's loss punctuates the book as the story goes back and forth between memories and mourning. Barry just manages to make his characters so strong and you care so much about their trials. Again in this book, minor characters also come through as important supporting parts.
"I can actually see some of these old matters. I am here at my table, but I am also combing my hair in the little room I shared with Cassie Blake, away away there in Cleveland. I am using her beloved rat-tail comb. She liked Sweet Georgia Brown hair pomade, and I can smell it as I sit here, sixty years later. And with the smell is conjured lovely Cassie, her backside up in the air as she dug about in her battered trunk for some elusive bit of clothing.
When I was a young child my father gave me a necklace of my mother's. The first thing a child does with a grown-up necklace is burst the thread. The little cultured pearls poured out on the floor, and made a dash for the gaps between the floorboards. He was able to rescue only a half-dozen, and threaded them back forlornly on the necklace.
The others must still be there, a queer memorial to me and my mother, in the darkness.
A long bit of string and six chastened-looking pearls. Maybe my life is a bit like that." (p.95)

Carol Shields is another author I have read and loved (Unless from 2013 and Larry's Party from 2009) and 'Mary Swann' was an immediate pickup in the charity shop. I was very confused by the last part of the book, but actually it turned out ok. The first four parts tell the story of Mary Swann, obscure poet, from the point of view of four people involved in her 'discovery'. So you get engaged in each of those people, and their connection to Mary and each other. The upcoming 'symposium' is discussed throughout, this is where the book is headed, but other things gradually emerge: are people using her to make their own reputation, who actually wrote the poems, are there more poems to be revealed, and why are all the copies of the original collection disappearing? Then the final part reads as a film script, something I have not encountered in a novel before. It was weird to begin with, but then I liked it, because I was visualising the scenes as they were being described, which was an interesting effect. The American edition is entitled 'Swann:  A Mystery', which gives more hint to the structure of the book. Questions are not answered, but the denouement was still satisfying. I also really liked the (imaginary) poems, several of which are included. I give you this, because the book is (partly) about poetry:

"It always seemed something of a miracle to him that poetry did occasionally speak. Even when it didn't he felt himself grow reverent before the quaint magnitude of the poet's intent. When he thought of the revolution of plants, the emergence of species, the balance of mathematics, he could not see that any of these was more amazing than the impertinent human wish to reach into the sea of common language and extract from it the rich dark beautiful words that could be arranged in such a way that the unsayable might be said. Poetry was the prism that refracted all of life. It was Jimroy's belief that the best and worst not human experiences were frozen inside these wondrous little toys called poems. He had been in love with them all his life, and when he looked back to his childhood, something he seldom did, he saw that his early years, those passed before the discovery of poetry, had drifted by empty of meaning. " (p.86)

I have three from the library to be getting on with, though am half way through 'Go Set A Watchman'.

Stay safe. Be kind. Get to bed early.

Friday, 25 November 2022

VW is for Very Wasteful

There are lots of wasteful behaviours that I think many companies engage in. Leaving lights on in empty building, shops that heat the street by keeping their doors open, but here at Royal Mail we have large TVs in each office that run all day with nobody watching. The previous one had an off button, but when I do my mid-morning tour of the office turning out the lights I can't find the way to turn this one off. While I know that turning off the lights won't save the planet I do think everyone needs to be paying more attention to thoughtless waste.

On Buy Nothing Day I cleaned the bathroom, made some flapjack and watched crappy Christmas films.
Stay safe. Be kind. Buy nothing.

Monday, 21 November 2022

U is for Unfathomable

In conjunction with the Post Office we run a service called 'Local Collect' where you can send your package to a local post office to pick up. This can be quite handy if your local Customer Service Point is not close by (and depending on your local office the Post Office might also be open longer hours). When you go online to book a redelivery the system will offer you a Local Collect option and tell you which post office is the nearest to you. Unfathomably sometimes people chose to send their parcel to somewhere further away. This might have logic for them if it is near their work for example, but when the students in Mayfair Court send their parcels to Withington Post Office it leaves me bemused, as they literally walk past our door to get there. So we follow these automated instructions and just agree that people are weird. At least once a day someone will come in looking for a parcel they have sent for Local Collect.
Oh well.
(Disclaimer: this a to Z is not official Royal Mail advice, except by coincidence.)

Stay safe. Be kind. Use your local Post Office.

Thursday, 17 November 2022

T is for Telling the Customer Off

This is a P6586 sticker. I refer to it as the Telling the Customer Off sticker, and it's my favourite. I relish sticking them on people's parcels and letters. This is because I go to quite a bit of effort to make sure things get where they are meant to be, and sometimes people thwart me in my labours by not really knowing the address of the person they are sending to. Bad postcodes cause things to be misrouted entirely. For example, the town of Bellshill in North Lanarkshire; it's postcode is ML4, which, when written lazily looks just like M14. Every day I send on parcels for Bellshill. I hope the people there appreciate my efforts. Missing house or flat numbers cause me to go searching our SPS system to discover where a person might live. Students who continue to use the postcode of their hall of residence even though they have moved into a house share. All these people will get a P6586 sticker. Don't be stickered, check the postcode when you send stuff this Christmas.
(Disclaimer: this A to Z is not official Royal Mail advice, except by coincidence.)
Stay safe. Be kind. Get a better sticker.


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