I know 48 postcodes off by heart. There are others like me, we are an elite group. They call us Royal Mail “Christmas Casuals”. But there is nothing casual about fiercely sorting through thousands of mis-addressed packages at 2am in a warehouse filled with the repetitive splurgings of Heart FM.
Outside the Royal Mail sorting office I am like any regular non-mag. But give me a high-vis tabard and a confusingly labeled return-to-sender package and magic happens. I am Postcode Man with powers of TQ4-sight and EX-ray vision. I probably know where you live (if it’s in Devon, unless you live in Plymouth, I didn’t get that far. I mean come on).
You may be thinking, what is a student of Arabic and Persian at one of the UK’s top sporting universities doing working night shifts for the Royal Mail. Well, we all need money. Besides, honey you should see me in a tabard. I wanted to go to Australia for Christmas but lacking the funds I compromised by staying at home but living by Australian time. Anyway, that’s my excuse for claiming jet lag after my last shift.
I had a delightful time. It can be summed up in five words: York, bullrings, and red sleeves. No, not a bloody, Spanish sports-themed night out in the northeast of England. In Royal Mail speak, a “York” is a trolley over which fits a red “sleeve”, a spring-loaded sack for storing mail. As for “bullring”, the collective noun for a group of empty and be-sleeved Yorks (each representing a postcode) formed into a U formation, ready to be filled with carefully
thrown placed fragile packages (ehem). Fascinating stuff indeed. Just think of the transferable skills.
What did I learn from the experience? That Chris Rea’s “Driving home for Christmas” is still my all-time favourite song no matter the time of year; and that I actually quite like Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. Can’t help it, just got to me. Beliebers gonna beliebe.
I also learnt that not having cigarette breaks every hour is against human rights; at least according to the Royal Mail temp (possibly) known as Shadwell (name unconfirmed, but this is the best guess due to insistent mumbling on Shadwell’s part), but variously referred to as Captain Conversation, Catweazle, Smokey Joe, Worzle Gummidge, or Stevo by fellow “casuals”). He had a peculiar musk that was notable in its presence, and a sense of humour notable in its absence. We inefficiently shared a bullring for two weeks before a voluntary redistribution of manpower.
It was a month of forgetting which meal was supposed to be breakfast, lunch or supper. Many confusing plates of pasta at 6.30 am before heading to the library for a confusing session of trying to read about something confusing in an all-too confusing language. Anyhow, I earned some dollar and you can thank me later for your Exeter-sorted Christmas presents. I still got 99 problems but EX1-39 and TQ1-14 definitely ain’t 48 of them (before you count, EX25-EX30 don’t exist, suckers). Merry Crimble.