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23 April 2007updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm


Prince Harry, Bob Dylan and a revolution for the Post Office

By Simon Munnery

Recently I was struck by an idea. It makes a change from bottles. It’s a simple idea and it is this: The post office alone should maintain a database with everyone’s address; so that to write to someone one need only put the person’s name on the envelope and a machine in the sorting office would automatically add the other details. Then, when you move house, you need only inform the post office of the change and all your mail will follow you.

Under the current system it is not possible to prevent misdirected mail; you give your address to someone – a company perhaps; they give it to someone else – or sell it to them – and so on, and soon copies of your address proliferate uncontrollably; it becomes impossible to track down every record of your address when the time comes to change it. And change it ye shall. For I have moved many times – already far more than my parents, and I suspect/infer that because this has happened to me it will increasingly happen to everyone. Why? Several reasons, mostly economic.

First, jobs. Jobs, though we still use the word, are not what they used to be. Once people had a job for life, nowadays little patches of work crop up then disappear like the slivers of sunlight that flash from the ocean waves. Jobs are coming to the North East, They say. Run! As if jobs existed, as if they were solid things like tables. And people do be going where the jobs do be, generally.

Second, housing. As house prices and rents increase the poor are forced out and the rich move to liquidate their capital.

Third, boredom. Couples move house, spend years doing up their new property and altering it to be perfect for their requirements; and as soon as this laborious task is complete they divorce or move on to a new property and either way begin the process again. But modern power tools and materials make the process of doing somewhere up quicker and quicker, so moving becomes more frequent.

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It shall come to pass I guess that everyone spends more time in transit, with their possessions in storage – although it stretches the definition of possession to include things you hardly see or touch.

Perhaps possessions will become – have become already – more abstract; you will own a sofa yes, and be very proud of it but will never see it; indeed it never leaves the showroom, perhaps is never built – but it’s yours – you’re paying for it -and one day – ah, one day! – when you finally find a place to rest you will get to sit on it.

Briefly, because the bailiffs will already be on their way. Something similar has happened to money; it has become increasingly abstract: gold and silver coins … representative coins… banknotes … electronic signals: Just number.

No wonder so many get into debt; it has become nigh on meaningless.

Was it Bob Dylan that sang “Every room you enter you’re on the way to leavin’ – save the last one, the tiny one, the one they nail you in”? No, it was me. But how will you leave the room you‘re in? Better? worse? Escorted to the door or thrown from the window? Reciting your own verse, or mumbling a song you half remember? Eh?

God bless America, they say; the people that say it – percussively; a bark, almost an order. But who are they to give God instructions?

God bless America. Fair enough: No one else will.

God save the Queen, we say, or sing without enthusiasm. “Send her victorious!…” – Send her? Where? And isn’t it a little rude to sing of sending her – wherever it may be – that is; away from us?

One of the princes is due to go to Iraq, there’s been fuss in the media about whether this should be allowed, what with the danger and all. From Britain’s perspective of course he should go. And if he gets blown up for his country that would be great; a huge P.R. victory for Britain: that the very richest among us is willing to lay down his life for our cause – whatever it may be. He would have raised the standard:

All potential suicide bombers would be stopped in their tracks; laying down your life when you are poor, when the world – which includes you – counts your life for little; that’s one thing. But to do it when you have every luxury money can buy, are fancied by birds, generally exalted – that’s something else; a greater sacrifice. And the Prince is after all, expendable: there’s a spare.

The second best option would be if the prince suddenly refused to serve and took a great moral stand, along the lines of Mohammed Ali. That too would bring credit to the country – though not as much; as unlike Mohammed Ali the suspicion of cowardice would remain.

The third and worst option would be that the prince goes to Iraq, despite the worries, and even though the media go to strenuous lengths to prove otherwise, everybody knows that he was cosseted and prevented from exposure to real risk, and survives.

Back to the post office: Under my scheme they could offer the physical equivalent of a spam filter – perhaps for a small fee; unwanted advertising could be kept at bay; or at least traced if a return address was mandatory.

On the minus side, perhaps, there would be less work for postmen, hence redundancies. Still, you wouldn’t say that if there was less crime that would be a bad thing because it meant less work for policemen; so as long as you view an undelivered letter for what it is – a small crime – ’twould all be hunky dory.