MANY years ago, when work was scarce and times were hard – a time when the Princess and I had barely established ourselves in our dream cottage in the heart of the countryside, and desperately wanted to avoid re-locating back to town where employment was a more realistic prospect – I was offered the part time position of village postman.
It wasn’t much, but it would provide a lifeline.
I saw it as a temporary measure and much to my eternal shame, regarded it as a tad demeaning having been made redundant from a well paid job that carried with it perks including a company car and expense account.
But I quickly learned a hard lesson in humility and came to realise that as important as money is, job satisfaction and happiness are priceless commodities. Not only did I come to enjoy the task, it also provided an environment where there was no work related stress – a new experience for me – and having been given a dedicated village round, it meant that I was never more than a mile from home.
The job soon became much busier and a full time position, and since I no longer had the inclination to move on, I remained the village postie until retirement twenty one years later.
I knew every house and its occupants, made many new friends and at times provided a grocery and pension service to several of the local ageing residents who found it difficult to get out.
I even had the temerity to put myself forward for the Parish Council, and having polled the most votes, it shook many of the old established councillors rigid, especially our sherry loving vicar who I transplanted. But it was simply all down to a familiar and friendly face seen every morning, six days a week, at people’s front doors.
A sizeable tome could be written about my observations and the funny and sometimes strange experiences over those years, but my most memorable times always revolved around the Christmas period.
Although by far the busiest and most hectic time of the year, often starting and finishing in darkness, December was my favourite month by far, and I always looked forward to it with great anticipation.
With almost every house given over to the spirit of the season by way of fairy lights, outsize baubles and at times, complex displays of life size Father Christmases, reindeer and sleighs, the atmosphere was wonderful.
One particular house owned a three foot high Santa Clause that they hung on the front door every year, and was obviously of American manufacture. He was no ordinary Santa, but was fitted with a sensor that could detect movement.
Whenever I approached the house, the magic eye would pick me up and he would break into song with a heavy New York accent.
He had a full repertoire from Tah Foist Noel to We Tree Kinks which were always preceded with a ‘Ho Ho Ho, Meeeerry Christmas’ greeting.
This got a bit much over several weeks and became somewhat of an obsession as I tried to devise ways to outwit the damn thing and manage to arrive at the letter box without triggering another song. But whatever wheeze I came up with, it never worked.
Then on my final Christmas Eve,I decided to give it a last concerted effort to defeat my red and white clad adversary from the Bronx.
I cautiously entered the drive and like Secret squirrel, flattened myself against the garden wall and worked my way slowly in a circuitous route via the front wall of the building, to the door
I was about to triumphantly shove the bundle of cards through the letter box, when the door flew open and the owners of the property appeared brandishing my annual Christmas bottle and card, verbally showering me with seasonal wishes.
Of course the flurry of movement triggered the plastic New Yorker and off he went with a rendition of: ‘Hack tah Heralt Anchels Sing’.
The owners laughed themselves silly because it transpired that not only had they been aware of my antics over the weeks, but had also witnessed my SAS style manoeuvre from an upstairs window minutes earlier.
So having come so close to victory after several years of trying, I had to finally admit defeat.
But you know what? I actually miss that old devil.