The action is stepping up a little. The past week or so I have delivering leaflets to some of the two thousand dwellings on my patch – done about half. It must be getting on for fifty years since I worked as a student relief postman at Christmas, which I did for many years, but I have not forgotten how beastly some letter boxes can be. Some that function like gamekeepers’ traps to snare unwary fingers, others set at ground level to torment the lower back, and those too small to admit anything larger than a teabag. These days there are new refinements to challenge the equanimity of the postie: slots that have set inside rows of stiff bristles that defy all but the most rigid items, and a significant percentage screwed firmly shut.
Also new since the sixties are all the stern notices people stick onto their letter boxes: No Free Papers or Junk Mail! Think Rubbish!; Doorstop Sellers Beware! You are Not Welcome Here!; Do Not Knock Unless You Have an Appointment! Do Not Incur Our Wrath by Knocking! I have obeyed all these strict warnings, especially the one’s about junk mail - I know junk mail when I have a fistful of it, and my leaflets do, after all, bear my name and address.
On the whole the people I ran into were friendly and interested, or friendly and uninterested, and I encountered no hostility – I even occasionally saw my own poster displayed in windows, a slightly disconcerting experience seeing one’s photograph popping up. This is how Kate Middleton must feel when she pops into the newsagents and glances at the magazine rack. Like Kate, I am trying not to let it turn my head.
The assault on my posters in the shops continues. I have my suspicions of course, but I cannot prove who is behind it because people are afraid to name names. One clue, perhaps, lies in the words of one shopkeeper: “menacing pressure is being brought to bear by a sinister figure from the dark side”. I knew that politics is a grubby business, but that it is also furtive has taken me by surprise. It has been said that attacking Nick Clegg is like clubbing seal pups, and I feel like a seal pup.
What about the issues? There are many that face the town (few seem to be interested in issues facing the District), but invariably the first one, sometimes the only one that has been raised with me is The Wentworth Street Car Park. More about this when I recover my strength after all the pavement bashing, and the liniment has worked its magic on my skinny legs.
Many memories have flooded back from my years as a Christmas relief postman, but one puzzles me; I distinctly recall trudging through deep snow as I made my rounds, but I have no recollection otherwise of a white Christmas. I also remember that there were many invitations to “come in for a cuppa, dear” from clearly bored housewives, but not this time round – but that was in Hull, particularly in Aberdeen Street, and I was younger then and had sturdier legs.