The Big Issue : Edition 484
culture police Fiona Scott-Norman THE BIG ISSUE 15 – 28 MAY 2015 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH YOU’VE GOT MAIL! (WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT.) Going Postal electronically, from money to love letters, from photos of the grandkids to asking if you could help embezzle a Nigerian prince’s inheritance. What do we get in the mail? Bills. Form letters from your local member with a rictus grin on his face. The Royal Auto magazine. And, if you’ve ever donated to a good cause, a lapping tide of charity letters, fat as geese, consisting in equal parts emotional blackmail, personalised address stickers and a stack of notelets. Depending on the charity, your notelets will feature puppies, flowers, ponies, native flora and fauna, teddy bears, butterflies, or bad art. I’ve had them all. I’ve also received a koala tote bag, so many pens and a ballerina bookmark. They call them ‘gifts’. There is so much about this strategy that rubs me wrong, from it being a revolting misuse of funds, through to do I look like someone who’d use a ballerina bookmark? I am at a loss. I’ve recycled, but trashing something technically functional fills me with guilt. I’ve returned them to sender with ‘stop sending me this bollocks’ scrawled across the front, and still they come. I’ve donated the notelets to the Salvos, but I feel like I’m taking the piss. Even if I wanted to actually use the damn things, and there are none among my acquaintance who’d appreciate a baby seal or pastel tulip greeting card, I’d never reach the end of them. I particularly resent being sent an unsolicited gift that’s not a gift, and then being shaken down for money. I’ve experienced identical behaviour before, being scammed in the Philippines: halfway through a friendly chat with a stranger I was offered a drink. I said yes to be polite, then was told I owed $20. There’s nothing charitable about taking advantage of those of us who love the intimacy of getting mail; giving us false hope that we’re receiving something personal. By the notelet designs, I presume these organisations are targeting lonely old women. By a bee’s dick that could have been me. Shame on you. ONE OF THE small pleasures of life used to be checking my postbox. For many years, while I was working as a reviewer, each day’s mail would bring a clutch of opening- night invitations. Big shows or small, I didn’t much care. Naturally I got a frisson from receiving that luxe cream envelope requesting my attendance at a big-budget musical plus post-show knees-up, but deep down I just craved mail. I had pretty much conflated getting post with getting love. This was (thanks, Dr Phil), an inheritance from my years at boarding school in England, where I longed for letters like a sailor’s widow standing on a cliff and scanning the horizon. Incarcerated at the age of 11, I would bolt from class every morning to the mail table, always hopeful there’d be something with my name on it. It’s indubitably clear from the narrative trajectory that there never was. I was a lonely child who, praise be, found a lot of solace in the school library. I retrospectively hassled Mum about her lack of ponying up the correspondence, and she claimed she didn’t write because she was self-conscious about her spelling. This was a mixed bag of information for me, because being a well-read and increasingly resentful teenager, I probably would have judged her 100% and mercilessly. But even if your child mocks your inability to remember that ‘i’ comes before ‘e’, or sneeringly points out there’s no apostrophe in a possessive ‘its’, it would have been kinder to write the damn letters. Just saying. I have now outgrown my feverish attachment to getting mail. I still get a little fluttery in the pants when my latest package from Book Depository arrives, but it’s not the same when you’ve ordered it yourself. More to the point, the mail is broken. Yes, yes, Australia Post are still delivering. Technically. Although I believe they’ve proposed raising the stamp price for a standard letter from 70c to $37. No, the problem is that there is no longer anything worth receiving. The trip to the letterbox is no longer an anticipatory skip to the end of the drive. The trip to the letterbox is now a duty as joyous as cleaning out one’s gutters, and with much the same harvest. All the good stuff is transmitted » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.