It became a tradition and we all did it. I think management knew but they certainly didn’t say anything about it. I heard that they did it too, only they waited until we had all gone home and did it on their own. Can you imagine the headlines? “GPO Bosses Steal Undeliverables” wouldn’t go down well with the viewing public, would it.
I started there not long after my birthday so I spent eleven months watching everyone else get to go before me. There didn’t seem to be any foolproof way of guaranteeing something good. Some picked anything in a pastel envelope, reasoning pink or yellow or blue equals a birthday card and that would mean money inside as a gift. The unlucky ones ended up with just a card with flowers and glitter, not so bad considering it was on their birthday, but no money. Worse though was getting a cheque. The money was almost there, almost yours, but not quite. And most people sent small amounts in cash but larger amounts only by cheque.
Some people went for a parcel rather than an envelope. There weren’t many decent sized parcels in Dead Letters because those usually went via PostParcel so these were more likely to be things that could go through a letterbox. They might be in plastic or a box or cardboard or even once or twice old thick brown paper tied with string. There was only one rule and that was you couldn’t squeeze them before you picked. Otherwise some people would just go along shaking and feeling everything to see what weighed most or made the best noise.
This year I have seen the following: one empty pink birthday card, one empty purple birthday card, one flowery birthday card containing five pounds, one flowery birthday card containing a cheque for twenty pounds, one hand-knitted scarf, a 2Gb USB stick, two novels both by writers I’ve never heard of, a tatty copy of 50 Shades of Grey, one box of packet soup flattened into a bag, one train ticket for a London to Leicester journey in 2007. This year I have not seen the following: a large wad of cash, a small wad of cash, dirty photos, anything that needs plugging to work, any jewellery, anything that was once alive.
My birthday strategy was simple. Nothing brightly coloured, nothing badly wrapped, nothing that had been there over six months. Other than that, I was game for anything. The date is 9th so I decided to count out 9 items and choose the last one.
It was a plastic package about the size of a DVD case, but soft all through and thicker. I could feel a rough shape inside, like sausages joined together but material sausages, not meat. I tore the plastic and inside was a tiny face peering out at me. The face had brown woollen hair, painted eyes and the collar of a blue smock dress showing through the hole. I took it out and saw it was a small fabric doll no bigger than a guinea pig. A handwritten note fell out and I picked it up and read it.
I know you missed sleeping with Suzy because your Mummy told me, so I went round all the shops and places we visited on holiday and guess what? I found her! She’s a little bit grubby because she was waiting for you in a tree in the park, but otherwise she’s as good as new. I think she missed you as much as you missed her. I hope you get a big snuggle tonight and Suzy makes you smile again.
Lots of love Gran xx
Seriously, what do I want with a mucky ragdoll. I’m over six foot with tattoos and throw letter sacks about for fun. So I got rid of it. There’s always next year’s birthday.
I made sure I wrote grandma’s return address from the note in big letters on the padded envelope I sent it back in. No sense in it getting lost a third time.