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I hate writing letters. I hate the effort involved in buying stamps and envelopes (they are never around when I need them), finding out peoples addresses, folding, licking, affixing, finding a suitable post box and dropping off the letter. When I discovered email many years ago, my heart momentarily lept with joy that all this might become a thing of the past, only to gradually realise that letters have not yet gone the way of the camera film or the black and white telly. The lead-up to Christmas does my head in for that reason alone! (Bah, humbug).

It gets worse. In the town in Ireland where I live, the local post-office opens late, closes for an hour-and-a-half at lunchtime and closes early too. Long queues are de-rigeur, with the officials hiding behind a thick barrier of bullet-proof glass. You can’t buy stamps over the counter at any shop in the town, and there is no letter box on the outside of the post-office. If you want to deliver a letter you have to find a public letter box. If it’s a parcel you have to get it weighed in a post-office first unless you have the luxury of a franking machine on your premises. It’s a crap service and we put up with it because they have a monopoly in this country. Nothing much has changed in thirty years. It’s a third-world service in a first-world country.

Why oh why do we still need to affix stamps to our letters in this day and age? Why can’t the postmen and postwomen collect letters from our houses instead of us having to traipse all the way to the bloody post-office to send them?

Here’s what I would love to see from a modern postal service. You write a letter, pop it into an envelope, write on the address or just give a name and post-code. (For familiar addressees, maybe all you need to do is to write their name). You then put this into a mailbox outside your door – the same one as where the letters are delivered – and the postal service does the rest. They stamp each envelope with an electronic barcode and then debit an account that you have set up with the post-office previously. You have many different ways of paying, from a pay-as-you-go option to a flat fee, all paid via direct debit or online or even a good old fashioned cheque, a bit like how mobile phone accounts work. The letters and parcels are delivered efficiently and quickly, and you can do all this without the need for stamps or even opening your front door. Maybe for a small extra fee, they would drop some replacement envelopes into your mailbox every so often so you don’t even have to buy these either?

Is this rocket-science? I don’t think so. Could it be done without too much effort? I think it could. Do I think An Post will do anything like this in my lifetime? Ha! Don’t make me laugh.

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I’ve been reading my daughter the tale of Rumplestiltskin over the last day or so. Man, it’s wild! For anyone not familiar with the story, here it is in a nutshell.

A miller foolishly tells a king that his daughter can turn straw into gold.

The king gets interested, siezes the girl, locks her in a room full of straw and tells her upon pain of death, that all the straw needs to be turned into gold before dawn the next day.

An elf appears and for a small fee, offers to do the job. Offer is accepted and hey presto – the straw is converted into gold by the elf.

The king is impressed, but rather than let the poor girl go, he brings her to an even bigger room full of straw, and the nightmare for the girl continues for another few days, with the rooms getting bigger and bigger each time. Every time, the elf saves the day, but the poor girl is eventually obliged to promise her first-born child to him in return for a room full of gold.

Get, this: the girl then marries the king. It’s her reward no less.

She has a baby, the elf comes back looking for the kid, she refuses. The elf then proposes that if she can discover his name in 3 days, she can keep the kid. At the last minute she finds out that his name is Rumplestiltskin (a messenger hears him sing his name as he dances around his house), and when she tells him his name, the angry elf puts his foot through the floor before he leaves and is never seen again.

Now who exactly is the bad guy here? That king is a complete psychopath! I mean, imagine marrying someone who has just threatened to kill you if you can’t do something that should be impossible to do! And, like, what the hell is Rumplestiltskin doing, loudly singing his name outside when so much is at stake? Idiot.

So what was the moral of this tale? “The bigger the bastard you are, the greater the rewards”? “All men are bastards”? “Keep your father away from the drink, because he might say something really stupid”? Possibly all these are lessons to be gained from the story, but should we really be telling our kids this? 🙂

Still though, it makes a welcome change from “Prince Charming”…

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