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... the Political Levy...

Short story By: Peter Hunter
Non-fiction


Tags: Money, Unions, Jail


... nothing's changed...


Submitted:Jul 11, 2013    Reads: 14    Comments: 1    Likes: 1   


… the Political Levy…

Peter Hunter

'Richard Hunter - as you were in a position of trust… I have no option but to make an example of you. I therefore sentence you to twelve months in prison…'

… the old circuit judge at Norwich Crown court, sounding very self-righteous and pompous - pronounced sentence on a very stupid man for the heinous crime of stealing a few registered letters containing cheques or postal orders.

That was back in 1958 - now he would probably receive a scolding and a foreign holiday for brain-washing purposes…

*

… for a land that most considered flat and boring, the red post office van took its time to climb the long straight on the B1145 north east of Bawdeswell ascending up from the low Wensum valley, then labouring gently up towards the sleepy village of Reepham. For Dick Hunter, the monotony of the regular trip, each familiar yard of road, every curve and bump - the friendly shade of each roadside oak and elm…

… was mitigated by the driving - the nearest he came to his dearest ambition - to own a car

… nothing, nothing could have been more routine than this journey - but as every sturdy beat of its little engine pulsed through his head - he had but the one longing…

… that the van - any vehicle, preferably a car - was his…

The one and only thing he longed for was to own a car of his very own… and the nearest thing he got to it was driving the little red van in which he transferred sacks of bulk mail from the larger post sorting office in Dereham to the smaller one in Reepham.

But in1998 - that hot lazy summer defining the still austere post-war period - Dick Hunter was now at the pinnacle of his career - no longer merely delivering the mail on foot or heavy red bicycle…

… but also allowed on occasion to fulfil a dream driving the red post van along Norfolk's leafy lanes… dreaming, fantasising of speed and power… imagining a life of affluence and plenty…

… poor deluded little man…

At least driving the delivery van gave him the additional pleasure of being away from his colleagues in the sorting office. Never a popular man… he was going through a particularly difficult time with the guys he worked with - all males for at that time it was rare to see a female in a postal uniform…

… the average postman was left-wing and tribal, set in ways that now would be regarded as those of a dinosaurian age…

… and there… in Hunter's choice of political party to support, stemmed the source of his unpopularity… the resentment and even hatred shown by his fellow workers. Of all the postal workers in the area - Dick Hunter was the only one who did not support the Labour Party. In fact he openly claimed to have voted Conservative in the previous General Election… stubbornly rejoicing in being a loner at odds with his fellow workers…

He might as well have claimed that he ate children for breakfast… or pulled the tails off pet cats… or slept with his grandmother…

But the focal point of their ostracism materialised mainly on pay day. The procedure was… and probably still is, for all I know… for an automatic deduction of a union subscription from postal worker's wages. Dick did not object to this… he supported the union for its work in getting the postal staff a decent pay deal and good working conditions… but not necessarily its political leanings…

… and what he resented most deeply was the proportion of these union dues diverted to the Labour Party… the political levy… and Dick insisted in his case…

… he was not paying it.

Although fully within his rights… the donation was technically optional, his individualism and breaking with tribal solidarity caused antagonism way beyond any rational behaviour… even to the point of physical violence and intimidation… and dead rats and dog dirt put into his mail bags… that sort of thing…

Dick was devastated by this treatment… but he had no way of fighting it… no sound ideas of how to maintain individuality against the sheep-like tide of his work-mates opinions...

… that plus his almost irrational desire to own a car…

His protest was juvenile and easily revealed… leading speedily to an appointment at Norwich Crown Court.

For Dick Hunter there would be no more driving the little red post office van along the wining narrow Norfolk lanes…

… no more fantasising of owning his own vehicle… instead a cell in Norwich's Mousehold Prison pondering where he had gone wrong. Was it simply greed or was it something deeper?

Obviously there could be no excuse for his crime - robbing the needy of their welfare cheques or whatever it was, but was it driven by a smouldering resentment borne out of his colleagues' hostility at his refusal to pay the political levy portion of his union dues - the dead rats in his postbag perhaps - all the alienation his principles had incurred?

… whatever?

Nobody will ever know… Dick Hunter eventual was released after eight months for good behaviour… but he never worked again… descending deeper and deeper into homelessness and degradation - until dying three years later in a shop doorway in Cambridge…

… in the middle of a cold winter's night - habitually drunk and disillusioned…

… all because he would not back down on a principle…

© Peter Hunter 2013

… extract from Peter Hunter's auto-portrayal: Too Many Miles From The Land Of Rivers





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