Mail Fail With Relish

Many moons ago I worked for Royal Mail in one of their call centres, dealing with customer enquiries (read complaints). You would talk to some very strange people.I spoke with one guy who called to complain that Royal Mail was colluding with his ex-wife to run his business into the ground by not delivering his mail. He was a strange one tho not as strange as the caller who rang  one Friday night.

This caller had a very posh accent and was very worried as he had agreed to put his work’s post into a postbox outside the office. His question surprised me, “Can I post letters into any post box?” I was momentarily thrown but replied if it’s franked mail then it should go into a metered mail box but if it’s stamped then no, any post box will do. His response was more surprising, “Oh good because this one isn’t working” Not quite understanding I came out with the obvious, “What do you mean, it’s not working?”

“Well”, he said, “when I put the letters in they just come back out again!” I remember looking at the clock on the wall, it was around 6:15pm so I replied, “Is the box full? Can you see any mail inside it?” When he replied I could actually see him in my head. “I’m looking into the slot now and it’s full of letters, I think that’s why it’s not working” I couldn’t help chuckling to myself, it was probably more his accent and tone, he seemed genuinely surprised that you could post letters into any postbox and not the one closest to where you wrote it.

I read today that proposed changes to Royal Mail by Ofcom will result in a minimum 25% price hike in the cost of postage. What they propose is to abolish price controls on everything except 2nd class mail which would be set at somewhere between 45p and 55p, it’s currently 36p. I suppose a price rise is only to be expected really as Royal Mail made a loss of £120m last year on their letters business. Hopefully if they stop losing money they can improve the service. Don’t get me wrong, when it works, it works great and it does work by far the majority of the time. However, when it goes wrong…only Royal Mail could make it Kafkaesque!

Last Wednesday I returned home to find a card from Royal Mail saying they couldn’t deliver a packet so I needed to go collect it. I wasn’t expecting anything so I was puzzled and mildly excited. Who doesn’t love to get mail? On Saturday I went to the delivery office to collect the packet. “Sorry, it’s not back yet. The postman probably posted it back. Come back on Monday.” Yes, only here do the postmen post back the mail they can’t deliver rather than return it at the end of their shift. No doubt some requirement for them not to return to the delivery office after their shift to stop having to pay overtime or something.

Anyway, I went back on Wednesday as that’s late opening night only to be told, “There’s nothing on the shelf. So it’s either somewhere where it shouldn’t be or it’s lost” When I asked what that meant for me the response was hardly surprising really, “Contact customer services and ask them to email us so we can investigate where it is.” Rather naively I asked why I couldn’t ask them to investigate seeing as I was standing right there but it was no use, they would only do something if an email from customer service instructed them to do so. So I wait with bated breath for the response which I rather suspect will be along the lines of the same blurb that went out when I worked for them. “Royal Mail deliver over XYZ million letters and 99% of them arrive but sadly 1% disappear without a trace. Congratulations! You’re one of the 1%”

Foodycat, a work colleague until today, tipped me off about a recipe in last week’s Telegraph for Gentleman’s Relish a la Hawksmoor. If there’s one thing I like, it’s Gentleman’s Relish…it’s heavenly when spread on warm buttery toast or better still a warm buttery crumpet! So a recipe to accompany steak? Yes please, especially as I’d just taken delivery of some Onglet steak from the East London Steak Company. Of course as usual I tinkered with the recipe and used smoked hot paprika instead of cayenne pepper which gave a nice smoky edge to the saltiness.

The relish proves to be very versatile, last night I was left with around a dozen shitaki mushrooms from the first harvest I grew. so I sliced them and fried them with a diced clove of garlic and a small knob of the relish letting them cook for 5-7 mins to allow the mushrooms to absorb the myriad of flavours. They turned out to be an excellent accompaniment to the steak. I’ve been enjoying cooking the shitaki mushrooms in different ways and look forward to the next harvest in a few weeks time. This weekend I’m going to start some chestnut mushrooms, another tasty fungi.


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