Winter, Royal Military Canal nr. Winchelsea 14"x10" Watercolour
Well, someone has to say it and this year it's my turn.
I wasn't in the best of moods. It was the day before Christmas Eve and I was on my way to the Post Office to pay the surcharge on a letter that couldn't be delivered due to insufficient postage. Waiting to cross the road I was unexpectedly hit from behind and consequently almost stepped into the path of an approaching bus. Prepared to apologise for being in the way (as only an Englishman can in such circumstances) I looked round to see a young child wearing a Father Christmas hat and a cotton wool beard, holding a gun. He had been so engrossed in his running battle with another small Santa that he hadn't noticed me. I walked on.
As I continued I had the strange idea that the bus I'd just seen was being driven by Santa Claus. The next minute another bus came along towards me and, lo and behold, it was being driven by another Father Christmas in full costume: hat, tunic, beard, everything. As pretty much all the bus drivers in this part of the world are consistently miserable and unhelpful, the sight of two dressed in outfits inextricably connected with happiness, jollity and fun, jarred - it looked wrong - really wrong. I don't want to see a bus driven by a grumpy b*****d dressed as Santa – ever – and I really don't want to see more than one bus driven by him or her - it's doubly wrong. I passed several more Father Christmases en route – mostly out shopping or selling the Big Issue – so by the time I arrived at the post office my mood hadn't lightened at all.
I've mentioned the grumpiness of the local bus drivers but they are as nothing compared to the staff at the post office. They are so intimidating that there have been a couple of times when I was sorely tempted to have a stiff drink before visiting the post office. It can be a harrowing experience especially if the poor customer wants anything out of the ordinary such as postage for an unusually shaped parcel; postage to any country outside the UK; help completing an official form; etc. - basically anything other than buying a first class stamp. The only time they smile is when my innocent looking envelope touches the sides of the impossibly narrow slot used to decide between merely expensive or ludicrously extortionate postage. I don't have a drink, of course, because the golden rule of post office negotiation is to keep a clear head and a poker face.
Imagine my dismay as I walked in the door and saw that every member of staff was in costume. Two Santas and one elf. Not only jolly hats and costumes but also full make-up and probably boots to boot. Luckily I didn't have to speak. They took one look at the card instructing me to attend the local post office and pay the excess postage (plus handling charge) and sent me up the road to the sorting office.
I was charged £2 excess postage on the letter which was unstamped and addressed to 'The Householder'. It was from a local estate agent wishing me 'Season's Greetings' and asking if I wanted to sell my house. They will shortly be getting a similarly unstamped and oversized letter from me wishing them a Happy New Year.
Did I mention it was raining?