Am Bratach No. 301
November 2016

Postie’s post
by Paul Blackman

Before I got the Skerray posting job I did some holiday cover in Bettyhill. I remember my first day setting off with “John the Post”, notebook in hand, up Strathnaver to Kinbrace, to meet the early morning train with all the newspapers. They had to be sorted in the back of the postbus and delivered on the way back down, along with milk, messages and prescriptions, not forgetting the mail. Never mind the NC 500, in those days it was the Post Bus Rally Run — especially in the winter. That was twenty-four years ago when it was all paper dockets to sign, soggy with ink running on wet days, hanging on for dear life on windy days ensuring those precious pieces of paper were not ripped out of your hand by an unexpected gust of wind, never to be seen again.

There have been some changes for the better over the years. Posties now have to have some knowledge of ICT as they upgrade from one PDA (Personal Delivery Assistant) to the next. The latest version has now arrived. It is a fancy electronic device which you see us carrying around, but even the latest version is only as good as the phone signal it receives. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to get it to log in/on depending on where you are at the time. It is a great machine. It can tell where the postie is at any time (if he’s in signal) and it can automatically send a text to the customer when a tracked parcel has been delivered, or not as the case may be. This is definitely a change for the better. Whether the rest of my colleagues agree with me is a different matter. After a day’s training in Inverness, it was my responsibility to train them to use this new device. So if there are any problems with the PDA all the moaning and complaining is directed at me as a workplace coach. This is when I get into Thurso in the afternoon after I have emptied thirty post-boxes along the way, starting from Tongue. Sometimes my patience has worn a little thin by the time I get there.

The main change in the Skerray duty is that it is no longer a postbus route. When I started posting it was a popular service used by many. The postbus allowed me my fifteen minutes of fame — well, one minute anyway. On a very wintery day back in 2006 I picked up Griff Rhys Jones at Skerray Post Office and did a whole afternoon of filming with him which resulted in one minute of TV time on the “mountain” programme and a whole page in the mountain book. I still get people saying to me “I saw you on TV last night”, so maybe all the airings of the programme at one minute a time have added up to fifteen minutes by now, or will do eventually. Anyway in the book Griff mentioned the great service the postbus did for the community which he witnessed first-hand and because of that he predicted it wouldn’t last much longer, as good things usually don’t. He was right: it was phased out a few years later, in 2009.



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