With no apologies or prevarication I am going to launch straight into an Angry Old Woman style rant. The Post Office and Royal Mail. Arrgghh!
This morning I had a letter to post which needed definitely to arrive by tomorrow. Now, in the good old days, there was a little something called a first class stamp which would take care of that; pop it in the post box, job done. But not now. In a cunning sleight of hand, by making first class post so notoriously slow and unreliable Royal Mail have created a market for themselves to charge £6.22 for one letter in order to guarantee next-day delivery’. Win win or what. And for ‘Guaranteed Next Day Delivery’ you can’t just pop a letter in the convenient box at the end of the road, you have to go to the Post Office, which leads me on to gripes number two, three and four.
The small post office counter which used to exist in our local newsagents closed a few years ago. Several local businesses have expressed interest in opening a new one, but have always been defeated by the sheer amount of bureaucracy involved. So my local post office is now a mile away. Not that far, maybe, but I’m not in a rural village, I’m in densely populated transport Zone 3 in London. I also have a four-year-old, and, for anyone who hasn’t tried this, motivating a small child to walk a mile in very cold temperatures and light snow (April is proving indeed to be the cruellest month) with only the promise of a visit to the Post Office at the end of it is very difficult indeed. In fact probably impossible. I only managed to get there by throwing the additional incentives of a babyccino at Costa and a browse in Waterstones into the mix, and it still took us over half an hour and more coaxing and cajoling than my limited supplies of patience can easily cope with.
When we finally arrived at the Post Office, chilled to the very marrow of our bones, the queue was out of the door. As we inched forward and finally made it into the building, I could see why that was. Only two, out of a potential nine, windows were open for regular business. There were dedicated windows for passport checks and travel currency (surely not because they’re money spinners?), but all but two of the other windows were resolutely closed. I will gloss over the next half hour. Suffice it to say that my already frayed patience did not receive the convalescence it so badly needed. I think that, of the two of us, my daughter actually coped better, deciding to use the queue barriers as bars for an impromptu gymnastic display.
I will admit to a degree of puzzlement and irritation at the member of post office staff standing a little to one side of the queue at a booth advertising quotes for Post Office mortgages. He didn’t receive one enquiry the entire time I was there. Strangely enough it would seem that most of the people visiting the Post Office this morning were there to post a letter or a parcel rather than to take out an impulsive secured loan. I suppose it is hard to predict these things. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that this member of staff could have been better employed by opening another window and serving customers. I subjected him to a series of Paddington Bear hard stares, and thought that he’d got the hint as he disappeared into the dim recesses behind the counter. I was overly optimistic though; he never reappeared in any capacity, so I think I must have just scared him.
When we finally reached the front of the queue my letter was dealt with very competently, albeit at eye-watering expense. Did I mention? £6.22 to ensure a letter gets there tomorrow. However, gripe number four arose when the lady behind the counter concluded our transaction by giving me the hard sell for a Post Office credit card. Now, ignoring what you may think are the rights and wrongs of credit being pushed on people when the pusher has no way whatsoever of knowing their financial circumstances or ability to repay, when you have a very long queue and very limited availability of staff it would seem to me to be simple common sense to stick to providing the services which have actually been requested. You know, just to save a little time.
So there we go. Rant over. I’m feeling a little calmer for having got that off my chest, so I won’t raise my stress levels again now by discussing the Call & Collect system for parcels delivered when you’re out. I’m sure there are excellent reasons why a parcel not delivered on Monday morning cannot be made available for collection at the sorting office down the road for at least 48 hours.
Anna and I refuelled with babyccino and hot chocolate at Costa. An Easter nest cake may have been partaken of as well. And then had a very enjoyable half hour browsing in lovely Walthamstow Waterstones and taking advantage of their ‘Buy One, Get One Half Price’ Easter holidays offer on children’s books. There was no way I could face the walk home in the now near-blizzard conditions though, we gave in and got the bus.