Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Imagine the scenario.

You're in a Post Office in England. No - actually, you're in a Post Office in Hatfield (which is England, but only reluctantly). You buy a few stamps, you post a few letters. You pay for the stamps and the letters, and then you leave. If you're lucky enough not to have been robbed in the queue, you'll probably be mugged on the way out. And if you're lucky enough not to have been robbed in the queue or mugged on the way out, you were probably stupid enough to leave a fiver on the counter and everybody's too busy punching each other in the kidneys to claim it first to bother you for the change in your pocket. And if you were even more stupid, and you'd handed over ten quid more than you should have, you can say goodbye to ever seeing it again, because the cashiers just high fived each other and booked a table at the local pub so that they can spend it.

I just got a knock on my door. It was a man from the local Post Office; a man who had sold me stamps and posted my letters this morning.
"Hello!" he said (I'm translating: this was in Japanese. Nobody in the Post Office in Nichinan speaks a solitary word of English, and there is - frankly - absolutely no reason why they should, seeing as we're in Japan).
"Hello," I said back. "Everything okay?"
He beamed at me, and then held out a piece of paper. The people at the local Post Office have taken to going on a translation site and typing in what they want to say to me, converting it and then printing out the results so I can read them. I enjoy this very much, and often go in just so that we can have this kind of exchange.
The paper, this evening, said:

We got ten yen you left please take.

"Hmm?" I said in confusion, being handed a little paper envelope. I noticed that he had my address because I'd written it on the back of my letters (they made me do it).
"Ten yen!" he said. "Left in Post Office."
"Umm, thankyou very much," I said, opening the envelope and seeing that there was, indeed, ten yen sitting in there quite comfortably. "Wow."
"All okay?" the young gentleman from the Post Office grinned at me, looking thoroughly chuffed at his White Knight behaviour.
"Yes," I said, still a bit confused, "thankyou so much, that was very kind," and then he bade me farewell and jumped into his car (the Post Office has just shut, and he must have been on his way home).

I closed the door and then looked back in the envelope: yes, I had forgotten my ten yen change that morning, and there was a receipt to show that there had been a deficit. I had taken only ten yen instead of twenty. And by God, I can only imagine how much of an uproar there must have been: enough to make the poor gentleman at the counter drive to my house and hand it back to me eleven hours later.

The reason I was so bemused, however, was that ten yen is not ten pounds. Ten yen wouldn't buy much at the pub, because ten yen is less than seven British pence, or - for the Americans out there - ten cents. It wouldn't even have paid for the rubber he wore off his shoes walking to my front door, let alone the petrol it cost him to drive here. I would never in a million years have missed it (even if it was ten times that I wouldn't have missed it; I'm incredibly bad with money). And yet he felt the need to return it, because otherwise the Post Office would have stolen my money. And Post Offices don't do that in Japan, apparently.

When he had gone, I turned to Betty (my surfboard, not my grandma).
"Betty," I said, turning my ten yen over in my hand. "I don't think we're in Hatfield anymore."

And I think that might be quite a good thing.