Wednesday, August 08, 2007


(The task set was to provide an explanation for the proliferation of microwave ovens used as letterboxes in the Clifton Municipality)

Damn!I suppose that I shall have to come clean, now that the interfering Writers’ Group has noticed the plan of mine in Clifton to do the public a service. But as I am now an ex-resident of the Municipality I don’t suppose that the ever-vigilant Clifton police officers will bother to try and search me out, especially at such a distance as I now am.

The microwaves were easy to come by – they deteriorate so rapidly that the public dumps are full of virtually serviceable machines, disposed of by people who either have come to realise the unhealthiness of food reheated in such appliances, or because of some minor fault or other.

A quick inspection of those at the Clifton Dump easily provided me with any number of microwave ovens such as would suit my purpose, and these were easily obtained by a suitable bribe to the overseer of the institution.

It was, however, necessary that they be provided with full electric power. This proved to be a little more difficult to obtain, and necessitated several visits to the Electricity Supply Company before they could be satisfied that the proposed installation would not be a danger to the public.

In the end, I told one or two white lies, the most crucial being that a light inside an old microwave would be completely satisfactory as a garden path illumination for such times as when the householder inspects for mail delivery in hours of darkness. The only stipulation that they made was that the supply be made by means of a standard waterproof exterior fitting, and these could easily be obtained at Mitre five-and-a-half, as we jocularly named the esteemed hardware supplier in the town.

Once the ovens, freshly provided with a new lease of life, were ready for installation, came the part which I have now to confess.

I had, before supplying them to specially selected friends and acquaintances, made a unique and valuable modification to the wiring and sensing device inside the control panel. As it was obvious that the prime purpose of the ovens was to collect mail, and incidentally to give light along the garden path, the sensing apparatus had to be made suitable to discriminating between proper mail and items which could easily be destroyed in a flash. Literally, in a flash – caused by the high voltage of the microwave, directed along a pre-determined path.

The really tricky part, and that which I am proudest of, and can claim much credit for, was the incorporation of a miniaturised Optical Character Reader into the preliminary circuit of the oven. Such a device, as I am sure you are aware, would enable the machine to read anything printed and, linked to a small sub-circuit of memory, find out from whom any correspondence had been sent.

I therefore concocted a list of undesirable mail senders who might be likely to bulk mail my clients – beginning with the Clifton Municipality, and extending the list to such as the Electricity Supply Company, the Telephone Company, the Income Tax authorities, and other such dunning organisations. To these I added Readers’ Digest, and many more firms purporting to invite the addressee to participate in get-rich-quick schemes. All such correspondence was to be quickly and harmlessly incinerated, leaving my clients only with welcome and harmless letters, like invitations to weddings, news from elderly and rich uncles, and weekly newsletters from children away to college.But now – it has all been found out!As I said – Damn! And I though I was performing such a useful public service!

Brian Hodgkinson ©


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