This is a rant.

Yesterday I went out in the afternoon to buy a present for my niece’s 4th birthday, which is today. (Happy birthday, Isobel!) I went to the present shop, then to the card shop, then came home. This took about an hour. After a bit I realised it was coming up to five o’clock and I needed to get it in the post. I wrapped the present, wrote the card, addressed it, and stuck it all together. A nice package.

What about posting it? I didn’t have any stamps. Not a problem, I thought, I’ll buy some. So I went to the Royal Mail website and looked up how much postage I needed. I went out, bought some stamps, stuck £2.50 worth on the parcel, and went to the postbox… where of course the parcel didn’t fit.

This might sound a bit silly, but: I don’t send parcels that often, and I’d forgotten that to send parcels you have to go to a post office. By this time it was 5.20 and, needless to say, by the time I got to the nearest post office – about a ten minute walk – it was closing. That was it. I’d failed. Sure, there was a late collection at a sorting office, but it was at Mount Pleasant in Islington – a good 20-minute bus ride away – and even then, i still quite possibly wouldn’t have been able to get the damn parcel in the slot.

Leaving aside for a second the fact that even a quite large post office in a busy area of zone 2 London closes at 5.30 – which is obviously completely fucking ridiculous. I’m not going to weigh in on the staffing principles of a giant nationalised, heavily unionised utility: I’m not fucking stupid. No, what makes me so mad is something simpler:

Why can’t pillarboxes just have bigger fucking slots?

I could understand how, pre-internet, there was no point it making in possible for ordinary people to post more than a letter at a pillarbox. After all, how would you know how much postage to use? But now, you can look up the amount of postage you need online. There’s even a nifty tool where you can pre-pay, if like me you seem to be always buying stamps but never seem to actually have any, and print off a label to stick on. How sensible! But rendered completely fucking pointless by the fact that, if you’re sending anything larger than a fucking cassette tape, you still have to walk ten minutes (or twenty, or thirty, in plenty of places in the UK) to a post office just to get a fucking slot big enough to put it in.

For fuck’s sake.

The problem, I assume, is that nobody wants to tamper with our precious fucking red Victorian pillarboxes. They’re so old, people coo. They’ve been there so fucking long. The one in Manchester survived the IRA bombing, etc, blah blah fucking blah. Well, you know what? I don’t give a fuck. It’s 2011, for fuck’s sake. We need things to fucking work, not just to look like they belong in a Richard Curtis movie. Sure, keep red pillarboxes in some pretty picturesque places where everyone has a fucking housekeeper to take their stuff to the post office for them. But for the rest of us with normal lives, isn’t it more important to save us all a bucketful of hassle than to retain a false air of village-y goodness in streets of neon signs and giant advertising billboards?

Not that you actually have to get rid of the fucking things anyway. How hard would it be to just add a box on the side with a flap and label it ‘parcels’? OK, there’d be something of a theft risk, but you could put up a big sign saying ‘don’t use this for anything valuable’ and it’d at least give people a fucking option.

The point is, at a time when post offices are closing all over the place, it seems pretty fucking logical to try to reduce our reliance on them. And the main thing which about 90% of people in any post office are there to do on any given day is just to send a bloody parcel. So couldn’t we just make it so doing that didn’t have to involve going to the fucking post office?

In summary: Britain is a decrepit, backward-looking absurdity in a state of irreversible decline.

Thanks for reading.

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