IT was the Britpop band Blur who perspicaciously observed: “Modern life is rubbish.” You may object that life now is better than in the past, but all that means is the past was even more rubbish. Perhaps that’s the trajectory of life: always less rubbish than in the past but still always rubbish.

Even then that doesn’t hold up, when you consider the advent of dictatorships, wars, famines or, indeed, viruses, when life beforehand was unarguably better.

I’m waxing philosophical before delivering a coruscating assessment of the plight of the modern postman.

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It’s one of two aspects of contemporary life that obtain my goat, the other being gardening, formerly a pleasant, relaxing, Arcadian activity, now a form of war pursued by suburban and village mercenaries, helmeted, armoured and strapped into heavy-duty artillery that blasts anything in its way and creates an aural pandemonium loud enough to wake sleeping devils in the deepest pits of Hell.

Life for the modern postie has also changed irrevocably. It’s much more rubbish than the past. Unusually, your columnist can speak authoritatively on this subject, having been a postie in days of yore, the career chosen – like that of gardener, for a while – on the basis that it was one of the few jobs that Hobbits were mentioned as doing in my bible, The Lord of the Rings.

I was happy as a postman: outdoors, useful, fit. Look at me now. The job was far from easy: the bags were always heavier than the regulations prescribed; thoughtless folk never put names or numbers on their doors (a phenomenon far worse today); tenement stairs were knackering; and the uniforms never fitted properly.

But it was decent, wholesome work, and the older one got the better the round (or “walk” as they were termed), senior fellows being assigned pleasant suburbs where the tips at Christmas were generous. The job was full-time, with overtime always available, and the industry was nationalised with no gluttonous shareholders’ greed to satisfy.

Look at it now. One delivery a day, by some poor sod working part-time with the whip of time-and-motion on his or her back. This has worsened during the pandemic. Posties have been heroes in this. No furlough for them. Their lot just got worse, their load heavier.

I said to a postie recently: “You must be delivering a lot of stuff these days.” He said: “Mate, it’s like Christmas every day. And it’s not going to change.”

If you’re a normal person – one hand has gone up at the back – you think: ‘Well, they must be paid more for this, with extra staff recruited to manage the greater workload. With everyone ordering online, Royal Mail must be coining it in.’

My friend, you forget that normal is abnormal nowadays. For Royal Mail claims the shift from parcels to letters, as well as the cost of social distancing arrangements, has offset any financial benefits from online ordering.

They’re sacking a fifth of their managers, while grudgingly keeping the delivery workers, as the parcels won’t deliver themselves. Before the virus, profits of £240m in the year to March 2019 were down to a mere £180m by March 2020. Boo-ruddy-hoo.

What do they want £180m profit for? It’s supposed to be a service. Or used to be. If you’ve made £180m, give every postie a personal assistant, a new pair of troosers (and not these disgraceful shorts), and extra Dreamies for Pat’s cat.

Oh I see: the cat was fired as part of cuts to satisfy shareholders? What a farce. Royal Mail needs a serious boot in the packets, starting with the firing of all executives on humungous salaries, and ending with a return to better times when posties were happy, fit and valued.

I know times have changed but, with everyone ordering online, you’d have to be abnormally incompetent not to make a business like that work.

But we live in abnormal times where, every day, life becomes less normal than in the past which, often, was less rubbish.

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Sauna so far

WHAT have I missed most in the lockdown? Mate, I’ve missed the sauna.

I used to go every week, after a session in the village gym. Mostly, you’d get it to yourself but, if not, you always had a pleasant yarn with fellow sweaties and, afterwards, felt clean and wholesome.

At the time of hollering, as there’s no sign of indoor gyms reopening, the sauna remains out of bounds too. Such a pity, particularly since scientists are saying that heat kills the virus. What’s hotter than a sauna?

Far from keeping these out of bounds, they should be erecting them at the end of every street or clachan, with the downtrodden lieges entering dejectedly and, 20 minutes later, departing with a song in their hearts and a glow on all four cheeks.


HUMANS are now fatter than pigs. Oxford Uni researchers found the average middle-aged man had 25 per cent body fat, compared to 16 per cent for pigs. Surely women were better? Fat chance: 33 to 38 per cent.

HAGGIS is wider Britain’s most hated food. A survey found many of these saps hadn’t even tasted it. Says here that haggis consists of sheep’s innards cooked in its stomach. My God, why was I never informed? Not eating that again.

MONKEYS have taken over the Thai city of Lopburi. The macaques are usually a tourist attraction, but lockdown has driven them doolally, causing frightened locals to remain indoors, where they’re kept awake by frequent renditions of ‘Simian Enchanted Evening’.

A VOLCANO in Alaska fuelled the fall of the Roman Republic. US scientists say Okmok’s eruption in 43BC caused famine and disease in the Mediterranean, leading to political upheaval, including the demise of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty. Sounds to me like a pharaoh tale.

TURNS out that aircraft condensation trails, often the subject of conspiracy theories, are good for us. They protect us from UV radiation, and their recent lack has caused concern. One more reason to welcome a return to normality, folks. Happy trails.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.