The little red van pulled up in the tiny picture postcard village of Pontsticill, Merthyr Tydfil and a distinguished elderly gentleman slowly clambered out.
He was clad in a red all-weather coat with yellow flashing, so he could be seen easily in the low light of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
His much younger work colleague kindly unloaded his zimmer- frame and post satchel from the back of the red van, and waved cheerily to him as he pulled back off onto the main road through the rural village.
It was 6.00 am on Saturday Morning and in the eerie half- light of late October, the elderly man had already been up two hours before arriving at the sorting office for 5.00am.
Postman Arthur Rittik was 74 years and 363 days old and it was to be his last ever shift.
He had wanted to retire at 65 but successive Conservative Governments had consecutively upped the State Pension retirement age, forcing him to work on beyond his usefulness to his employer.
According to the Department of Work & Pensions, acting on instruction from Ian Duncan Smith, work was compulsory for all until 75 years of age, as unfortunately some of the lower classes were now living too long.
Under its new slogan of ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.
Somebody had to pay for the poor deal negotiated over Brexit in 2019 and clearly that should not be the millionaires who could afford it, or those persons who had money hidden away in Hedge Funds and Tax Havens pretending to be Great Britons.
It should be the Proletariat.
After all they WERE the democratic ones suckered into voting for Brexit over the fear of mass immigration.
They were now the ones who could no longer afford cheap Thomas Cook flights to Benidorm or Marmaris to use their shiny new blue passports, after the Pound had been devalued below the level of the Euro and Turkish Lira.
Their feral children couldn’t even go and work in the bars of these places any more, as they couldn’t get Work Permits or Visas from the European Union Member States.
They now had to stay at home in a divided Britain with reduced worker’s rights and zero hours contracts to boot, whilst their REAL bosses- the Merchant Bankers & Venture Capitalists- drank champagne and eat oysters and caviar and retired wealthy, after dipping ‘Maxwell- style’ into the pension pot of their workers who had made them rich in the first place.
Poor Arthur Rittik’s only crime was to be born poor in Britain in 2019.
His family had fled Bucharest in Romania in 1939, with some foresight, fearing with just cause what the rise in Fascism would bring to their Mother Country.
His parents had moved to Wales and Merthyr Tydfil in particular at the time, as it was the second least expensive place to buy a house, after the village of Sellafield in Cumbria.
Despite its ‘glowing reputation’ they had chosen Merthyr over the Lake District.
His Father before him had worked on the post, mainly because he couldn’t speak English but also because he didn’t have any professional qualifications that were recognised in this Country.
Somewhat ironically however, his Dad still ended up with lots of letters after his name.
He always held a grudge against rich people ever since.
His Dad remembered the good old days of delivering telegrams to family members of the rich people that had been on the Titanic and telling them that their last words in the bar was requesting more ‘ice’ for their whiskey & tonic.
Fortunately, as he spoke in Romanian nobody could understood a word that he said.
He did have one advantage though, as he was a user of the Cyrillic Alphabet, he could easily identify where a poorly handwritten letter needed to be delivered.
Doctor’s letters were his speciality.
When Arthur took over his round, after he had retired through ill-health, he too found he had a unique way of dealing with illegible writing.
He would simply post them back to the Central Post Office.
Arthur Rittik noticed that he had developed the same occupational illnesses that his Father had from the cold, damp conditions of the South Wales Valleys.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, no knee cartilage, a crooked back from the weight of the letters and lots of sharp paper cuts.
In the Bleak Mid-Winter, there were often times when he couldn’t feel the tips of his fingers or the toes on his feet- but he always made sure that just like the ‘Pony Express’- his post always got through.
How times had changed.
Now his profession was regarded with some ambivalence, being sneered at as ‘snail mail’ by the Katy Perry generation and where once the sound of the letterbox would bring joy to the householder children waiting for birthday cards or examination results, now it was met with disdain for junk mail adverts for kebab shops, pizza huts or OAP scams sent by Canadian Conmen that the occupier had won £100,000.00- asking the Local Government supplied list of unwitting elderly victims for their bank account details so the prize could be paid out.
Now he was made semi-redundant by e-mail or telephone mobile text message.
But what the young generation would find out in a few years that their use of electric and fossil fuel that powered their electronic devices was damaging Mother Earth and sending unknown radio waves through the population causing hitherto unknown cancers from electric forcefields.
His way was far more eco-friendly and he had a letter from Swedish schoolkid Greta Thunberg to prove it.
Whereas once he was considered a pillar of a rural Community, now he was largely anonymous.
Back in the day, he had lost count of how many schoolchildren had asked him if his name was Pat or if he had a black and white cat called Jess back home in Greendale.
Now schoolchildren were more likely to threaten him with a flick-knife or call him a Paedo, or ask him why he still wanted to live till 75 years of age?
Children had changed for the worst, mirroring the ‘I’m alright Jack -pull up the ladder ‘Little Britain’ Society Arthur now lived in.
Working class children were also bitter, as Brexit had robbed them of their ability to live and work anywhere in Europe and the divide between the rich and poor had widened to such an extreme that certain areas had become ghettos and other areas- walled communities.
Even Pontsticill had changed, with the continuation of benefit cuts and the resulting crime wave had led to lots of rural burglaries, so that most properties had close circuit television cameras aligned to their doorbell to check for uninvited guests.
The last great fun of doing his job had been taken away from postmen.
They could no longer pretend to ring the doorbell and leave an annoying note with ‘Please collect your parcel from the Delivery Office by 5.30pm’.
As most rural working customers couldn’t get there during normal working hours, they would have to take-up their Saturday Morning to fight through the congested traffic schemes only to discover with some dismay that the mystery parcel actually contained a copy of the Readers Digest.
Back in the day, Arthur was young and fit, he could manage to deliver his post to the entire village and in the process leapt more fences on his round than Grand National Winner ‘Red Rum’, but now with his limited movement, he could only manage one single estate in a day and usually fell at the first fence.
Today, it was Castell Morlais with only 24 houses- all with an open expansive view of the former Norman Morlais Castle and the high former limestone quarries that were once favoured by the English Ironmasters that ruled the Town in a grip of fear.
The rape of the fair country had left behind many industrial scars but the landscape was still as stunning as it ever was – a silent witness back to the times when Arthur of the Britons had first roamed the Celtic Motherland.
It was breath-taking.
Now a different Arthur of the Britain’s stood looking at the Welsh Upland mountainside but at 74 years and still working it was also breath-taking to him.
In fact, the remainder of his breath was briefly visible in the half-light, as its moisture went off to add to the frost on the red tiled roofs of the houses.
Lots had changed in the village, as rich Englishmen from the Smoke could now afford to buy a mansion in Wales from the net proceeds of sale of a one-bedroom flat in London and still have change left over.
The price disparity was all there to see.
The new Ironmasters had arrived.
Many houses were now empty and used as holiday homes on AirBNB, with local wages preventing many Welsh people being able to afford to buy, leading to a rise in Welsh Nationalism and threats of ‘Meibion Glyndwr’ resurfacing in the Principality.
The promised ‘melting pot’ of races had not materialised and increasingly Welsh-born children no longer felt a welcome in the Hillsides.
Arthur looked up at number 24 Castell Morlais and could see a newly installed flagpole with the flag of St George proudly flying over the garden.
I bet that was popular with the few remaining old Welsh neighbours thought Arthur.
As he trudged his way on his zimmer up the uneven pathway of number 1, he tried desperately not to fall over- as he knew that if he turned turtle , he would have one foot in the grave, as people in our broken society already stepped over homeless people in sleeping bags- seeing them as an inconvenience rather than a consequence of the failure of a Government to find work and shelter for their population.
As he reached the letterbox, he carefully selected the right mail for the Property- as he was suffering from early onset vascular dementia- it proved quite a task.
At one time, this round was even harder and more confusing, as most people on this estate were called Jones, Williams, Evans or Thomas.
Now it was Smythe, Blenkinsop or Farquar.
Very few now spoke the Mother tongue and even fewer tuned into S4C.
One survey once established that no-one at all had tuned in to watch several of the Welsh Language Programmes.
But they were still running.
With his first delivery over, Arthur did a U-turn with his frame and made his way back up the shiny pathway.
Back in his youth, he loved the sight of crisp fresh snow- now he feared its very appearance as one slip could mean a broken hip or foot and could be fatal to an elderly postman no longer fit for purpose.
He also worried about how he was going to manage on his meagre state pension after he retired.
After all he wouldn’t even get a free BBC Television licence anymore from his Aunty Beeb.
But I suppose there was always S4C even if he didn’t understand a word of it.
Whatever happened to the Great British Empire and the promised ‘trickle-down effect’? he thought.
The Post Office wasn’t even owned by Britain anymore.
After 360 years of history, the institution was now owned by its shareholders with the resulting effect that the cost of a first-class stamp was now beyond most people.
With inflation, the cost of having a miniature profile of the Regent of England on the top left- hand corner of your envelope had risen to £1.50.
Opinion at the Post Office was divided, as to whether the cost increase or the Earl Grey- stained teeth of Queen Camilla had been most off-putting to the general public.
Either way the number of letters being posted had dramatically reduced.
Which was both a blessing and a curse to poor Arthur- as he feared that some latter-day ‘Robber Maxwell’ might now plunder HIS pension fund, especially as it was paid via a Private Company.
Thirty minutes had now elapsed since he had been first dropped off and he had only managed to deliver post to two houses.
But Arthur was resilient, he was determined to finish his ‘Royal’ paper round and not let down his customers.
Despite being not having originally born in this Country (just like the Windrush Generation) he still considered Great Britain to be his home, and in particular considered himself to be Welsh.
This was based on who he supported in the England v Wales Rugby Match.
As he headed for the third letterbox, he knew he would have to be wary.
There was a sign up ‘Beware of the Dog’.
He hated going into long gardens where the home-loving canine suddenly turned into the Israeli Defence Force and attacked him with those sharp teeth.
Arthur had been bitten so many times over his time with the Post Office he was immune to the tetanus jab itself.
He once did an entire round with a corgi attached to his front of steel toe cap boots by its teeth.
If he had a pound for every time a homeowner had told him –“He won’t hurt you love!”- he could have afforded to retire.
His stock answer was always:-
“ He’s not going to hurt ME love ….but you will be the one that has to climb up the roof of the extension to get him back!”
Many a customer complaint had been lodged on his personnel file for this reply.
So much so Head Office wanted to know if for Health & Safety reasons he wanted to be CORGI registered.
The Fire Station Commander had also complained about his antics in the past but now with a zimmer-frame for protection Arthur was much less belligerent.
However, Arthur’s talent was not limited to pushing paper through holes in doors or converting pets rugby style over garden walls, he had modified the frame just like Q had done for aging actor Sean Connery in ‘Never Say Never Again’, so that at a touch of a button , three six inch stiletto blades would shoot out of the assisted walking- frame.
It was ideal when doing the Post Round in the New Gurnos- as on occasion he had to duel with certain residents like he was one of the Three Musketeers over the retention of his postbag.
Vigilant at all times, Arthur made his way towards the front door of number 3, where he heard the distinctive low growl of a canine defender.
A Jack Russell Terrier by the sound of it.
He could tell the breed and size of a dog simply by looking at the scratch-marks on the bottom of the door or the size of the uncollected dog logs in the gardens.
Whenever, he reached a letterbox where a dog would wait at the back of the door to take off his fingers, he would carefully pick up a dog log with the home-owners incoming mail and then feed it through the flap to the waiting canine mouth.
What a joy it was to hear the dog retching at the taste of it’s own shit.
It was even funnier, as some breeds had short memories too.
With poor Fido having to pick up the ‘bill’ from it’s equally savage owner for a utility letter inside the house with dog excrement on it.
Arthur hated all breeds of dogs but especially German Shepherd’s- not just because of their Country of origin, but also as they were big, aggressive and very territorial.
Nowadays, few dogs bothered him, as due to his age, he smelled of imminent death and whilst the odd hungry one would try and take one of his bony fingers- his Bond villain invention- those of his ‘Rosa Klebb’ shoe-spikes attached to his zimmer- frame usually sent the dog yelping away with it’s tail between its legs.
Most homeowners didn’t blame the postman but assumed that the cats in the area had been issued with flick-knives by a Cat Protection Charity.
As he reached house number six, he was stopped at the top of the driveway by a female supermarket delivery driver busy reversing out of the cul-de-sac.
As it was a Morrison Van – her name was Carrie Abagfivepea and naturally had brown eyes.
Even if they were crossed like US comic actor Ben Turpin.
“What’s the postcode for Morlais Close in Castle Park?” asked the South Wales exponent of the ancient Japanese art of Bonkai.
“Are you talking to me?” asked the lady, whose eyes seemed to be concrete proof of the ability of females to multi-task.
“You’re a postman ain’t you?” countered Carrie.
Poor Arthur felt he was being cross examined and didn’t know which eye to look at- East or West.
“What’s that got to do with it?” asked Arthur.
“There’s no bloody mobile phone signal up here for Google Maps!” said the lost driver.
“Googlie-eyed Maps?” replied Arthur.
“Not my generation love….I couldn’t use a mobile to ring….let alone use Facetube!”
Carrie shook her head in disgust and reversed off at high speed, sending milk now passed its sell-by date and stale bread tumbling as she went.
Seeing the alternative ‘Meals on Wheels’ pull away made Arthur hungry indeed.
But the austerity measures of successive Conservative Governments had left him with a choice of Eating or Heating.
Private rental rates kept going up too with inflation but not in keeping with his meagre pay.
He hadn’t a pay rise in five years and he too was finding the cost of food expensive.
He like most people was affected by the new phenomenon of ‘Universal’ Credit ‘shrinkflation’.
His food portions had shrunk in size and cost twice as much to buy.
A Mars Bar was now the size of Mercury but cost the Earth.
Fortunately, as so few people under 80 years of age wanted to eat them, Werthers were still original.
As he carefully unwrapped one with his blue bony fingers, he took comfort in sucking down on the sweet.
Next up, was number 8, a Jewess Widow he had had his eye on for a number of years.
He felt she had a soft spot for him too, as she often came to the door wearing a negligee and stocking and suspenders.
She reminded him of Rose from the Golden Girls on the occasions when she had her teeth in.
He always pretended there was something wrong with the letterbox and so she had to open the door to him.
None of the nine cats that lived with her seemed to object to his arrival either, as they all made a bee-line for the crack in the door whenever he came a calling.
Fortunately for Arthur, his sense of smell had waned over the years, as younger postmen used to recoil at the putrid smell of stale cat faeces and urine that escaped, just like the cats themselves when the door was ajar.
“Oooh good… my Strictly Come Dancing Live tickets have arrived at last!” said Widow Yom Kipper.
Arthur was pleased to make his favourite customer happy- on a ‘Strictly’ professional basis of course.
“Heavy Sack today Arthur?” she asked suggestively.
“Are you any good at dusting?” asked Arthur randomly.
He was of course thinking of the cobwebs around his cock that hadn’t been employed for some years now.
Widow Kipper took this as a slight and promptly closed the door sharply in his face, trapping one of the escaping cat’s tails and turning it into a Manx one.
Arthur, just like most men was puzzled as to what he had said to offend the woman.
He started back up the pathway, clicking the lozenge between tongue and teeth.
Next up was Mrs Quill, she was another widow but much younger and less attractive than the Widow Kipper.
She had spent some time in the USA previously but had left America after her husband had been killed by a bull in a rodeo accident at Calgary.
He had been a Circus Clown and had died in the ring protecting a bucking bronco rider.
The only consolation that Mrs Quill had in the tragedy was that it had taken the undertakers four days to get the smile off the dead man’s face.
Arthur from experience knew that the blue envelope marked Air Mail was likely to be a letter from abroad.
He was however, curious why there was a franking stamp silhouette of a horse drawn buggy with the face of actor Tom Cruise on the driver.
It read Amish-on Impossible.
Just like the Widow Kipper, she too loved to see Arthur’s mail coming through her letterbox.
She was happy to explain to the curious Postman that it was a letter from her friend in Pennsylvania.
His religious Amish community had banned the use of Skype, Mobile Application Facetime or other modern technology.
They believed that of the 4000 Gods that mankind had created since the dawn of time – their one was against technology.
The author of the letter was a pig farmer- making him the ultimate Pen-Pal.
They had corresponded every six months for the last decade, swapping news about pork prices, the effect of new President Donald Trump was having on the swill of the people and of course who was suey-ing whom in the US Court Legal system.
He had told her he was thinking of moving into a different agricultural field- that of chlorinated chicken, as the President had assured him personally that it would be the new big export market.
Most of Trump’s political rivals were talking about impeachment, but he personally didn’t think fruit was the solution.
The pair had developed their own USA/UK ‘special relationship’ since the death of her husband and hoped one day to innocently roll in the hay one day after Harvest Festival or Thanksgiving.
Or perhaps spend the New Year in Scotland once he had saved up enough Hogmanay.
The letter was always perfumed to disguise the smell of the farm.
Arthur bid his farewell and told her that she would soon have a young stallion taking over his round as he was being put out to pasture.
Next up was Mr Stoker at number 10.
He had always disliked Arthur, as he had never forgiven him for delivering a parcel by placing it in his wheelie bin to keep it dry, when he was out.
It would have been fine but unfortunately it happened to be bin day and he didn’t want the embarrassment of asking the local binmen to return his blow-up woman that he had ordered on the internet.
He had tried to convince Arthur that the company ‘Big N Bouncy’ produced inflatable bouncy castles for children’s parties- but as Mr Stoker had no children, spouse or living relatives it didn’t wash with Arthur.
But then again it wasn’t the only thing that didn’t wash.
Mr Stoker himself always appeared at the door in his dirty dressing gown and encrusted striped pyjamas, usually around Noon holding a bowl of cereal.
The Hugh Hefner lookalike had earned the local nickname of ‘Bran Stoker’, as his light was on all night and his habits were extremely regular.
Arthur pushed the overdue electricity bill through with a smug smile.
Fortunately, there was no mail in his bag for some of the houses otherwise, Arthur would have been there ALL day instead of just the entire morning.
He was shattered.
He still had at least four houses left to deliver to and he genuinely feared he would not make his final deliveries.
He had little else to show for his decades of loyal service but the one thing no one could take away from him was the pride in him doing a good job.
It had been drummed into him as a child, that hard work paid dividends.
What a complete lie that had turned out to be.
The only dividends he had ever seen were those he had delivered to the houses of the rich shareholders that had bought into the newly privatised utility companies at undervalued prices.
Successive Governments had sold off the state- owned Gas, Electric, Water and Telephone Services and he personally had not received a single penny from the sales.
He now had to buy gas from SWALEC, Electricity from British Gas, rent a telephone line in all the recent flooding from Welsh Water and water from Whitbread Brewery.
And that was before the Royal Mail had even been privatised.
He couldn’t afford to buy employee shares, as he currently paid more in tax to the UK Government than both Google & Amazon combined.
And the proposed Labour Government was proposing to re-nationalise everything- if they were elected….so the whole process would start again.
He was fed up of being screwed over and over again, as with added inflation he felt just like Mr Stoker’s inflatable woman.
He tried to console himself that at least he had a purpose to get up for in the Morning- until tomorrow that is- when he finished work compulsorily.
What would he then do to fill the hours?
Arthur didn’t know.
He didn’t want to vegetate and watch the moronic daytime television.
He had all those years ago thought that retirement would bring both time and freedom to do the things he had always wanted to do but put off because of his job.
Enjoy not smelling the ‘Roses’ at number 8 Castell Morlais.
But now reality was starting to bite, he really felt short-changed by God.
The hand he had been dealt was not full of Aces but full of deuces.
He really felt bitter and someone was going to pay for it.
The Flag of St George fluttering in the cold mountain breeze too seemed to rile him even more than it normally did.
And then out of the corner of his eye, he caught a sight he had never seen before.
An unidentified flying object, that whirred and hovered in the air above the house with the English insignia.
It was painted a gaudy yellow with black lettering down the side.
Arthur squinted through his 74- year old cataracted eyes trying to make out what it said.
He was intrigued by the robotic UFO, as didn’t think he would ever see such a sight in his lifetime.
He didn’t expect to live long enough to witness people in jet packs whizzing about like they were members of the US cartoon series ‘The Jetsons’, let alone what he perceived to be a drone delivery from US warehousing giant Amazon.
The device seemed to pause, just like it was a mechanical homing pigeon checking its bearings before descending to the front door.
It then extended an arm and knocked the door loudly.
If Arthur had felt redundant earlier, now he knew he needed to be mothballed.
On its side was an LCD display with the words, ‘connecting to WI-FI’….
The electronic ‘Ring’ doorbell then sounded of its own volition and ten seconds later the door swung open only to reveal an out of shape male with a skinhead haircut, with a Chelsea FC football hooligan ‘Death to Spurs’ skull and crossbones tattoo on his muscular forearm.
Seeing Arthur staring at him from the top of the drive- he shouted aggressively ‘Wot U looking at?”
In reality, Arthur didn’t really understand what he was in fact witnessing.
The Amazon Drone opened a flap and in a mechanical voice ( not dissimilar to the robots from the 1970’s Smash advert for instant potato mash) spoke to the skinhead.
“Are you Ed Hunter?” asked the device.
“If so…please place your left thumbprint on the receipt display!”
Ed did so.
The word ‘MATCH’ came up on the LCD display and a different flap opened to dispatch a small bag of white powder.
Arthur was still dumbstruck.
Ed shouted to the Postman.
“Ain’t you seen a delivery of Colombian Marching Powder direct from the Amazon before?” said the National Front supporter.
As the drone flew off with its own ‘mission accomplished’, Ed quickly closed the door with a loud slam just to annoy his next-door neighbour, who he knew was working a nightshift.
Arthur had seen enough but he knew there was a delivery for Mr Ed Hunter and much as he wanted to toss the item in the hedge, his sense of ingrained but misplaced pride in his job would not let him end his career with some unfinished business.
He looked down at the item and quickly discovered that from the weight and size of the packaging that it was a hardback book.
A slight tear caused by despatch from the book depot showed, it was entitled ‘The Holocaust- a work of fiction’
Arthur was already angry but to think that someone would class the murder of millions of European people as ‘fake news’ made him livid.
It was the 1940’s equivalent of Austerity Measures & Universal Credit.
Some of his fellow Romanians had perished at the hands of those Right Wing Extremists -the Nazi Party of Germany-, many of which were women and children.
If there was only one good thing to come out of Europe in the last 74 years it was that different Nationalities had stopped killing each other over fictional borders.
He continued to shuffle his aged bent feet towards the long and winding road leading to the front door of the Englishman’s Castell.
It took him nearly 30 minutes till he reached the racist welcome mat on the porch floor.
“Beware of the Wog!” it read with a Robertson Jam Jar musical band member emblazoned thereon.
He was so incensed with the Brexiteer home owner that he wanted to give him a piece of his mind- while he still had some of it left intact.
He was intent on dealing with a vampire in the same way that they did in Transylvania in his Paternal Fatherland by putting a stake through its heart.
A last post if you like.
As he rapped on the door with his bony knuckles with the last of his ‘remaining’ strength, it was opened by Ed Hunter who glared back at him angrily.
Up close and personal, he had tattoos on his tattoos and was flanked by an English Pit Bull terrier sporting a blue Mohican, a spiked collar and bore the name ‘Drool Britannia’ on his identity ring and a highly- strung cat with a neat ‘Adolf Kittler’ moustache called William Rees- Moggie.
He was now outnumbered by bullies in the usual ratio of 3:1.
“Are you still ‘ere?.......what do YOU want?” spat the EDF energy- enhanced homeowner.
Arthur had intended to point out the error of the Neo-Nazi’s ways but was surprised at what actually came out of his mouth.
“Have you got any of that ‘whizz’ left-it’s just that I need it to finish my Round!”