Tuesday, 19 August 2014
The changing scenes of life
One very convenient services has disappeared from my life in the last few weeks and another is about to go.
The one that's already gone is the delivery of the morning paper. We're all aware of the declining circulations of newspapers and magazines, not least from the frantic and often ludicrous attempts they make to try to maintain sales and revenues. All those silly supplements. There are so many sections of the Guardian I dispose of unread that buying it is probably the most environmentally unfriendly thing that I do.
The "knock on" effect of this decline is becoming increasingly evident. Within living memory there were four dedicated newsagents to serve our urban village. The first one I used is, after the retirement of the owner, now an Indian take-away. The second went bankrupt and is now a television repair shop. The third struggled along until about two years ago, but their game efforts were torpedoed when the Co-op, opposite, itself began to sell newspapers. Retaliation by selling wines, sandwiches, milk and pop proved ineffective and the shop is now an estate agency. The final one still continues in the trade because the owner can't find a buyer, but the daily delivery of the papers has been abandoned.
I suppose it's a bonus that, by adding half a mile or so to my daily jog in order to collect the paper myself I get extra exercise. Fine, but what about when it's raining:: I'm a fair weather only jogger. But it's an end to the "paper boy", and nowadays, girl. How are future generations of school children to earn the odd bob by independent endeavour?
The second service which is about to to disappear, is, effectively, the "next day" delivery of mail. I've been away for week participating in the splendid Cranleigh Choral Week, which culminated in a stunning performance of Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius" in Guildford Cathedral last Saturday. On my return I find a notice on the post box just round the corner that, from mid September, instead of the current "final collection" at 5.45 pm, in future the box will be emptied "no earlier than 9am on weekdays and 7am on Saturdays." This means that anyone who posts a letter during normal waking and working hours can expect that it probably won't be collected until the following day, and, presumably, not delivered until the day after that. This, says the notice, is to "increase efficiency." Efficiency of what? Or for whom?
My first reaction was one of indignation. It's difficult to remember what stamps cost these days as they no longer display the price on the stamp itself (just 1st or 2nd class) but the prices were hiked upwards about a year ago to prepare the service for privatisation (or so most of us believe) and have been hiked again since part-privatisation to a mind boggling 62p (12/4d in real money) for a first class letter and 53p (10/6d) for second class.
But, on reflection, does it really matter? Is this not really just part of the changing scenes of life: a sensible reaction to the changing state of technology? Businesses with communications which need to be sent urgently will phone, fax, text or email them. The same facilities (perhaps not fax) are available to the rest of us. The only written communication for which most of us really need a guaranteed delivery date is a birthday card, and we can get around that one by posting well in advance and writing on the envelope: "Not to be opened until....". In fact, it's a curious convention that birthday cards should not be received until the day, but Christmas cards are received weeks ahead and opened and displayed as soon as they arrive.
Even so, I'm a bit irked to have to pay over ten bob just to post a letter, and then receive a diminished level of service.