I’ve been walking the streets again. Taking literature to the people. A thing which in my youth was an ideal but which the years have bashed about it. Here I am doing it again. The plan is to leaflet a whole district with invitations to the launches for my latest book. Get the news out there to those who normally hide when they hear the word culture. To those who haven’t read anything at all since they went to school. Who do you read, you ask, and like many a politician, they scrabble around in the depths of memory and then come out with it. George Orwell, they say. You can’t beat 1984.
My leaflets are made of card to aid letterbox stuffing, and full colour to catch the eye. At the second house I visit I get chased up the path by a furious neighbour, ripping my card into shreds. Keep your rubbish, he shouts, scattering the thing across the road. There was a notice on his door which read “If you put another menu through this door I will never eat at your restaurant again” and above that a sign saying “No Junk Mail”. I’d ignored that. Same thing happened to me when decades ago I’d gone by delivering labour party leaflets. You are the cause of all my troubles, one large and tattooed householder had complained. People seem to enjoy ripping things up.
A few houses have sensible wide letterboxes set at hand height and a pushover to use. Most, however, have devices installed simply to make deliveries as complicated as they can be. I understand now why Postmen get so upset. The world has become paranoid about drafts. They don’t fear junk, they are afraid of cold air. Behind the letterboxes lie thickets of draft preventing brushes, deep-weave curtains, cloth flaps, springs, boxes, cages, bags. Post only gets delivered if you hammer it through. Or leave it on the mat.
On my afternoon’s round trip I counted eighteen hand-scrawled “the bell doesn’t work - knock loudly” notices, twenty-eight “we do nothing at this door unless you show us your birth certificate” printed commands issued by the Boy Scouts and at least ten “do not park in front of my house” signs masquerading as official dictates by having the words “Polite Notice” done in South Wales Police blue along the top.
The leaflets I was distributing promoted my latest book of psychogeography, Real Cardiff #3. The experience acquired has given me more than enough material for a whole chapter in Real Cardiff #4.
Will this happen? Seren, my publishers, have announced that number three is the last. But now I’ve opened a file for number four on my computer. Let’s see how that fills.
An earlier version of this post appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of Saturday 2nd January, 2010