Monday, 1 April 2019

Personalised Postcodes are now a Thing

Home owners now have the opportunity to personalise their postcodes, but at a cost; vanity doesn't come free.

Royal Mail has announced that from today it will take applications for personalised alphanumeric postcodes for an initial fee of £500 and an annual 'maintenance fee' of £200.

'We are delighted to announce this opportunity for people who own their own homes to choose a personalised postcode,' a Royal Mail spokeswoman said. 

'The postcodes could reflect a hobby or interest, a vocation, or some unique feature of their home or where they live,' she added. All applications would be vetted to ensure they don't breach standards of acceptability.

In an advance invitation to a select few privileged customers, Royal Mail has already approved the following vanity postcodes:

GR8 W8R - taken by a hospitality college
FI5 H1N - chosen by a keen angler
AV1 80R - bagged by a commercial airline pilot
K9S 4ME - selected by the owner of a dog kennels business

Existing postcodes can be dispensed with once the new one is approved. It does not need to begin with local postal area initials either, but will be unique to the single address of the applicant. The vanity postcodes will be able to be on-sold should the property change hands.

'As long as the postcode letters and numerals do not spell anything offensive or are likely to cause upset - and have not already been taken by someone else - we will approve them,' Royal Mail said. This rules out such personalised postcodes as B1G N0B, 4NI C8R, etc. 

But can you buy a vanity postcode as a gift for someone else? Yes, confirmed Royal Mail. So I'm going to, and soon - assuming it passes the decency test - you'll be able to write to:

Theresa May, 
10 Downing Street, 
London BO1 10X. 

Can't see how that would offend anyone.

- Press Association, 01 April, 2019

Friday, 15 March 2019

Lost Innocence

I woke up this morning expecting to see the usual news coverage of that omnishambles called Brexit. I was ready to quickly swipe to my daily dose of Dilbert, and then browse what Elon Musk's SpaceX had been up to on I didn't, because I couldn't. Instead, I saw news stories about a massacre in New Zealand, the country I'd called home for over forty years. Forty-nine people had been gunned down and killed in two mosques in Christchurch, with at least twenty more injured. My morning, and my whole basis of knowing New Zealand had suddenly been turned upside down.

I went out there as an almost-fifteen year old and discovered a country of gentleness, of times past. A country that some said was 'stuck in the 1950s'. I loved it from the start.

Not long after joining high school, in the sleepy town of New Plymouth, a boy asked me one day, 'Do you like Maoris?' His name was Mark. I didn't understand his question, but it turned out that even in this provincial high school in 1969 there were tensions based on race. I, however, didn't see them, and apart from Mark's query saw no other real evidence of segregation or unease. Our class was made up of Kiwis, Fijians, boys of Polish and Dutch extraction, and probably many more. We had city kids and country kids, wealthy and not-so.The point is we gelled.

As the years went by I did however witness some divisions within New Zealand. I'm not sure when it started - perhaps in the very early 1970s when there was an imminent danger that some of us boys would be drafted into the military and sent to fight in Vietnam (I confess now to seceretly abusing my trusted position as a part-time office worker at the YMCA to use their Gestetner copier to churn out  protest leaflets against Agent Orange and defoliation). Maybe it was with the protests against the visit of the nuclear-powered (and armed?) USS Truxtun in 1976, and later the civil unrest around the Springbok rugby tour in 1981. Suddenly New Zealand seemed uneasy with, and within, itself.

As the years went by there were other visible abrasions, not least of which would be the accusations (and reparations and acknowledgements) around colonialism, and Britain's mis-handling of the Treaty of Waitangi - but I don't recall there ever being any religious-based unease. Migration to New Zealand was an accepted fact and had been for decades; the country needed skilled labour in a number of areas and opened its arms to those qualified. Earlier it simply opened its arms to anyone anyway - witness the '£10-pound-Pom' scheme of the 1950s and '60s. New Zealand welcomed everyone and anyone.

The country has tussled many times over the years with its identity in a global context - and within itself often too - but by-and-large has always managed to self-level and maintain dignity and calm. Yes there have been the odd spikes in extremism as there are in any nation, but overall, well: good on ya' Aotearoa.

But this morning all that changed. This morning New Zealand wasn't in the global media for its tourism delights, its Lord of the Rings scenery, its earthquakes or its beached pilot wales. This morning its All Blacks and Silver Ferns took a back seat. This morning New Zealand was covered in blood, and would never be the same again.

One of my immediate thoughts was, New Zealand has lost its innocence. Its deputy prime minister echoed my thoughts a little later, and he - we're - right. What had generally been perceived as a safe, clean, green country full of friendly people, thousands of miles away from the rest of the world's troubles, was destroyed when - at time of writing - one man allegedly took it upon himself to drive to two mosques during prayer time and murder almost fifty innocent people. It may eventuate that more perpetrators were involved, or that a terrorist organisation was behind the atrocities, but that will become evident in time.

The tendency at this point is for the media - and the rest of us - to want answers immediately. Did the security services know of the threat? Did they do all they could to prevent it? If not why not? Who let this shooter, this extremist, into the country? How was he (and perhaps his accomplices) able to get weapons? At this stage we have nothing but questions, and in the absence of answers we do, of course, leap to conclusions. It's in our nature to fill the gaps with opinions, thoughts, ideas, suspicions.

Hard though it might be, we need now to wait for the due process to take place. A man is in custody, along - at this point - with at least two others. The police have a long road of investigation ahead of them, as do the security intelligence services, not just in New Zealand, but Australia and likely further afield. CCTV footage will be revealed eventually, showing the suspect(s) preparing for the atrocity. Acquaintances will be interviewed, 'experts' will be questioned, and slowly over the next few weeks we will begin to learn the truth.

In the meantime we can do little but grieve. Nobody saw this coming, but New Zealand must always have been a 'soft target', and it now must up its game to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Sadly many people will now consider cancelling their planned holidays there; Kiwi tourism will take a dive, and the country's reputation as a safe place to go has been irrevocably tarnished. It will, however, recover. But right now that's nothing compared to the grief of those family members whose loved ones were killed in this massacre. Some of those people went to New Zealand seeking a haven, a place of sanctuary from the troubles of their own countries. They went there seeking the country that I arrived in fifty years ago. Instead, terrorism followed them there.

It's evident from the social media postings today that any divisions within Kiwi society are being put aside. Today, New Zealand is united in its grief; and united in its resolve that it will never be such an easy target again. Kia Kaha, Aotearoa (Stay strong, New Zealand).