No stamp of approval over postage costs

THERE was a time that the best way to show off a bit was to drive a flash car or wear designer clothing. But a new possibility came up exactly a week ago.

I suppose the best way to display excessive wealth in Britain nowadays is to wear a necklace made of postage stamps.

I confess to often thinking in proper old pre-decimal money, and it brings it home when you say out loud that a first class stamp is now 12 shillings and even the humble second class is a stonking 10 bob.

I bet that most businesses in Hartlepool wish that they could raise their prices by more than 25 per cent in one go, but they live in the real world.

Of course, the rise of electronic communications like emails, texts and the rest, has meant a big decline in our use of postage anyway, but, as always, change brings losses as well as wins.

I’m a very occasional letter writer these days and most of the day-to-day routines of life, like bills and business, tend to happen across the internet anyway.

I wonder if today’s youngsters will miss the landmarks in life which were often marked by a long-awaited letter in the post.

I’m thinking back to memories of exam results, job applications and the rest which landed on the doormat to great joy – or not.

Sometimes, letter writing could be hard work, especially, just after Christmas, when watchful parents made sure that we wrote very neat “thank you” letters for festive presents, even if we had to tell a few white lies and gush enthusiastically about the lovely socks from a distant auntie.

The trouble with emails is that they don’t quite have the evocative nostalgia of a bundle of lovingly kept real letters.

There must be women of a certain age all over Hartlepool who still have a treasured package bound by ribbon containing love letters sent from a missed sweetheart on active service in far flung parts of the world. Back to practical things and, with yours truly being organised, not to say tight, I popped into my local post office just before April 30 to stock up on a few dozen stamps which would keep me going for a year or two.

They had, of course, run out. A post office without stamps – a bit like a pub with no beer.

Back to my example of Hartlepool business people who would have been chuffed to bits to receive payment up-front for a service which would not be delivered for months to come.

The real crunch in many people’s lives will come next Christmas when they decide that sending a big crop of festive greeting cards is simply too expensive.

Many people would still prefer a real card to pop on to the mantelpiece rather than into the computer’s inbox, and I wonder if there is a solution at hand locally.

I would guess that many of our cards are sent to friends and family within Hartlepool and I wonder if a voluntary group or two could set up a kind of exchange station for a much lower charge than a stamp – and make some money for local charities too.

It might be a result which the mail experts don’t expect – and another step in Britain’s progress from the Penny Black to the Pound Black.