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COLUMN: Yes, rural posties are obsessed with road conditions and other drivers, but is it any wonder?

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The Postie Notes by Pete Malone

The regular reader of this column would be forgiven for thinking that posties are obsessed with either the state of the roads or the behaviour of other drivers.

Pete Malone.
Pete Malone.

I am sure that town-based posties on a walking route have their own concerns, such as dangerous dogs, frosty footpaths and slippery sidewalks. But for the rural postie it is always road conditions that are paramount.

This is hardly surprising when you spend more than half your working day driving on surfaces which, to say the least, have not been subject to the most tender loving care over the last few years.

I was highly amused by a report I read over the summer about a holidaymaker who had cut short their stay in the Highlands and returned home disappointed.

It was not the scenery nor the food they found wanting. It was not even the hotels that were to blame. Rather it was because, as they drove around, hardly any other drivers waved to them as they passed.

My first thought was that, at the height of the tourist season, most vehicles on the road are usually visitors and it seems more than a bit churlish to feel unwelcome because strangers aren’t waving at you when you drive past them.

My second thought was that the sort of wave you get very much depends on how you drive on our roads.

If you pull over onto passing places and allow overtaking, then you might get a cheery wave, a jaunty toot-toot on the horn or the flash of indicators as a thank-you.

However, if you drive with another vehicle on your tail past passing place after passing place after passing place, then the sort of wave and hoot you get will likely be very different!

You see examples of very bad driving on the road most days, from the motorbiker negotiating the road while using one hand to film on his phone, to the drivers and cyclists who feel that, where the road width is wider than the metalled surface, they have the right to the tarmac.

Post vans are not built as off-road vehicles and driving down the side of a rutted single-track road does not do much for a postie's mood.

Foreign tourist are often the worst and have an alarming habit of pulling into the passing places only when they spot a photo opportunity.

The other recent and significant change to our roads and conditions has been the introduction of the “20 is plenty” speed reduction in some of our villages.

Again, tourists seem to think that they have an exemption from adhering to the new speed limit. I frequently observe sports cars and motorbikes chasing through our village at a lot more than the speed limit.

I do have a sneaking sympathy, though, as the road signage has not been uniformly applied across all the villages along the north coast.

My picture (below) shows a road where the signage seems to suggest that if you drive on the left-hand side, the limit is 20mph but if you drive on the right then the limit is 30mph. Maybe that is why some of our visitors seem confused about driving in our area.

The signs on this road are leading to confusion over the speed limit.
The signs on this road are leading to confusion over the speed limit.

At least, now winter is approaching, the tourists fly south for the winter leaving us free to drive without a care in the world. Except for the deer of course – but don’t get me started on them.

Pete Malone runs Bettyhill General Merchants – the local store and post office.

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