Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Last Post

By the time you read this I will no longer be a Royal Mail employee. I will have handed in my uniform, my cap, my badge and my bicycle clips. They will have sounded the Last Post at the Whitstable Delivery Office for CJ Stone, APG, which I think means Associated Postal Grade. Something like that.

I feel like the archetypal detective in that classic movie being asked to hand over his badge and his gun. Only in my case it’s my badge and my delivery pouch.

Never to have to post a letter again! Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m both sad and relieved at the same time.

The job served me well for a time. I was flat broke and in dire straights, several thousand pounds in debt, and with few prospects for my writing career. I was also very depressed.

Becoming a postman was helpful in more ways than one. It got me out of my financial hole, but it got me out of my mental hole too. There’s nothing like straight physical labour to brace the soul and lift the spirits, and there’s a certain joy in testing yourself against your own limits, to see what you can achieve.

I was never the best postman in the world, not even the best postman in Whitstable, by a long shot, but I was the best postman I could be, and there’s something very vital in that.

Also, having spent the last ten years working on my own, it was good to have people around me again, even if I couldn’t quite keep up with the banter most of the time.

I tell you, they’re quick those postmen. There are one or two down that office who could easily have their own TV series.

On the other hand, I’m a chronic insomniac, and I never could get used to those hours. There were days on end where I was walking into work having got less than an hour’s sleep.

Anyone who has ever gone without sleep for any length of time will know what it is like. It’s as if your nerves have been plugged into the National Grid. You feel on the verge of losing your temper all the time. Anyone breathing in your presence is in mortal danger.

“Excuse me, are those eyes you are looking at me with? Well put them away before I eat them.”

After nearly a year of that I was forced to go part time, two days a week. But then the two days of disruption turned into four - a day of anxiety in advance, and a day of recovery after – so that I almost might as well have been working full time again.

In the end I decided that enough was enough and to have a go at kick-starting my writing career again.

But I’m glad I did it and I will miss my work mates particularly.

Keep up the good work everyone.

Despite the proliferation of junk-mail, it is still honourable and valuable work you do.

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