Memories of an election

It is amazing the lengths that some people go to avoid their mail being delivered. The unabashed, simply do not number their houses and try to hide behind blank walls. Others use numbers whose colour merges with the background so that they are hardly visible during the day and definitely invisible at night. Another device is to put the number in obscure places, a dustbin seems popular.  Years ago, I saw this technique used in Dubai.  Here the roads were usually unnamed, and the houses unnumbered, the dustbins were marked with the names of ladies who wish to make it easier for their customers to find them.

From the time I helped with elections, canvassing and posting leaflets, the predominant memory I carry with me is that of the difficulty I experienced in delivering leaflets to specific addresses. Once the house was identified, there was the problem of reaching the front door. Not an easy task! Few gates are designed to easily open, with sticking catches, stiff hinges and some that scrape on the ground, these are the outer defences. The gate open, the next task was to negotiate the front path. Here the tactic was to be more on the offensive. Hidden puddles that flooded my shoes and huge bushes, some clipped some wild and rambling, that leaned menacingly into the path daring me to advance. Bravely, I would go forward only to be bombed with water that the plants had cunningly secreted in their leaves.

The front door reached, the next task was to find the letterbox, some doors do not have them so one has to look around for little boxes with flaps.  At one house I gave up and fought my way back to the road through verdant defences is only to find a post box at the gate, sited so that it could only be seen on the way out.

The variety of shapes, sizes and positions of letterbox are amazing, and it is here that the defences can be vicious. Nasty sharp-edged flaps with strong springs whip back on unsuspecting fingers. Wild dogs loudly barking and pounding on the door, desperate to get at and maul the intruder, quick to sink teeth into any finger that is silly enough to be pushed through the flap. These dogs succeed where all else has failed, they snatch the leaflet as it is pushed through and savage it on the mat.

Other devices are not so violent. Stiff bristles that fight back and crumple the leaflet, inside flaps that will not open. Even those who are not trying to avoid having mail delivered, can put their letter boxes in the most difficult of places. It’s no fun being on hands and knees struggling to push something through a letterbox that is only three inches from the ground with an umbrella doing its best to batter either you or the door.

Finally, few words on the technique of “leafleting”. They need to be folded before being pushed through the letter box. The idea is to increase their mechanical strength and to make them fit in the slot. Ideally, I suppose they should be rolled up. If this can be done at home so much the better, in fact this is essential for trifold leaflets have that have to be folded into three. When on the run, I’ve found the best method was to fold about 20 together and pull them out from the inside and hold ready for delivery. This was not possible with houses that were close together but one leaflet can usually be creased between most front doors. Rain was a problem until an experienced deliverer kindly and patiently brought my attention do the benefits of a plastic carrier bag, both as a carrier of supplies and protector against the elements.

I am not likely to leaflet again but, were I to, I have, a new strategy. Horrified at the soreness of my feet the ache in my muscles I would go into training by walking the hard and unyielding pavements for miles each day. Map in hand and electoral register in mind I would launch a search and find operation for those addresses I could not trace.  Finally, I would develop a device, perhaps an oblong tube that can be thrust through all defences to deliver an neatly folded message from those whom I serve.


© Anthony Fisher May 2020