The cost of stamps is about to go up again. No surprise there. Yesterday, I bought even more than usual for the mass post-out of Sphinx 12 which is imminent: it cost a great deal of money and my small consolation was knowing it would have cost even more in two weeks' time.
Then I went to the bank to pay in the tax rebate (yeay!) from losing money on HappenStance last year and was served by a girl with a badge that said 'Sharon Excellent'.
"Are you really called 'Sharon Excellent'"? I asked her.
"No,' she said. "It's a scheme where they phone customers and ask them to rate you after they've been to the bank."
Aha. Fore-warned is fore-armed. I, too, may receive a call asking me to rate Sharon. Haven't had one yet, though I have had one from British Telecom. Since I am "one of our valued customers" (as opposed to one of the other kind) they wanted to make me a special offer regarding Broadband. Since I am one of their customers, they should know I am registered with the Telephone Preference Service and shouldn't receive sales calls. However, they obviously count themselves as exceptional, though they are certainly not excellent.
In the Post Office, the service is not just excellent; it's personal. That's the local post office, where I do nearly all my purchases of stamps and so on. In the Town Post Office, it is more impersonal and less excellent. You feel sympathy for those poor, newly-trained staff who cannot let you leave the building without trying to persuade you to 'top up' your phone, when all you wanted was two books of stamps.
In my local post office, this week the Manageress told me she was supposed to try to sell me car and home insurance and she wasn't doing it. Hooray for rebellion. "They pressurise us, you know," she said. "They phone us up and tell us our jobs may be at risk if we don't do it." Their low-paid, highly pressurised jobs doing confidential transactions for pensioners, running down the road after people who left things behind, explaining how road tax works, weighing parcels for ebay and mail order, sending off parcels to Afghanistan, asking after people's grannies and sick husbands and repossessed houses and dead dogs. The world is changing. There are those who will sell insurance to everyone they know (most of us) and those who will refuse.
The weeks between sending a publication to the printers and getting it back remind me of the no-time between death and a funeral, locked in an apprehensive space where everything goes slower than usual. Except in this case everything goes faster because I had forgotten this was the weekend of losing an hour in the cause of more daylight and the hour I lost was the hour in which I write this blog.
Never mind, Eddie Gibbons' new book What They Say About You (Leamington Books) is previewed at The Lot, Grassmarket, Edinburgh this Thursday April 1st, 2010 at 7pm.
Do come -- entrance is free. I was one of Eddie's lunchtime audience at StAnza and I can recommend this book warmly. I even wrote some of the blurb on the back cover and what I said there is true. He is funny and moving and quick on his poetical feet. A pleasure to read.
Meanwhile, I should flag another event in April, since we are nearly in April,at Brilliant Poetry Montrose where Helena Nelson (me) is reading, or something approximating to that process. If you go to the link, I am the one wearing the banana earrings underneath Don Paterson looking into your soul. Eeek. A bit nerve-racking to perform along the great and good. For those who (understandably) shift in their seats a little when poetry is mentioned, there's Andy Shanks -- a marvellous folk singer.
Now it's back to the labels. Labels? Typing out the labels to go on the Sphinx envelopes and checking the list is correct and updated at the same time. It's the last issue that will go out by post. After that the reviews will be more regularly updated because there will be a teeny weeny bit more time to do that. . . .