I have long been intrigued by the varied careers of some of my colleagues: Take, for instance, Mike Jones…...

I walked the streets for a living

Mike Jones is Manager of REFT, a system delivering three billlion items to 80 thousand users per year. But Mike started his career with an organisation delivering 20 billlion items to 60 million users per year. From 1976 to 1979, in Oxford and later in High Wycombe, Mike Jones was a postman.

Mike gained his place with the Royal Mail by omitting to mention that he had a degree in Economic History. His career began with two weeks of classroom training, learning such things as how to close a letter box without getting his fingers caught. After this Mike went out on his round accompanied by an experienced postman, and gained his real 'knowledge': "I learned that if you were given an easy route, you 'looked after' it, meaning that you did not complete it too quickly. Also, the longer you had been a postman, the better round you were given. This could either mean an easier round, or else a more affluent round that tipped well at Christmas."

I must emphasise, or so my lawyer tells me, that this describes a situation that prevailed during the 1970's. It does not represent that professional organisation that is the Royal Mail of today!

Mike's job was not only to 'walk the beat'. Before setting out on his round Mike had to arrive at work at 5:30 a.m. and sort his letters. Also, for a full two-thirds of his time with the Royal Mail, Mike was doing late sorting shifts rather than delivering.

But the job had its funny moments. Sometimes a package would come apart in transit, and the intended recipient would be asked to come to the sorting office to pick it up. One such package was an inflatable doll from Scandinavia. For some reason its owner never came to collect.

On another occasion, with snow thick on the ground, a helpful mailvan driver insisted on taking Mike to the bottom of High Wycombe Hill to start his round. The van was marooned for a week until the thaw came.

Perhaps less funny to Mike was the time a dog appeared from nowhere and bit him. "You'd have to know me very well to know where" said Mike. Well, I took this as a challenge, I made enquiries, and I can reveal that Mike was bitten in High Wycombe.

All in all, it must be said, Mike found that being a postman was not an easy way to make a living. His careers advice to colleagues? Stick to delivering electronic items!