Richard Barr Writer (and lawyer)

PC Postcards

There are few genuine reasons for sending holiday postcards. True, it might be helpful for near relatives to be reassured that you got there, and have not yet been kidnapped by rebel guerrillas. But on the whole, let’s face it, we send postcards to gloat or annoy. The message is clear: we’re here having a wonderful time. You aren’t.

If it were left at that, this activity would be harmless, but as a Kent police force recently discovered, the real mischief occurs when postcards are sent back to the office. We have all done it. The sea is blue. The sky is bluer. The exotically named cocktails flow like water, and for a brief moment everything is right with the world. What better time to point out, to those still chained to their desks, one or two home truths? You only need a picture of a camel or a kangaroo or a dog lifting its leg against a Greek statue to be able to liken it to your least favourite person in the office. Only when the postcard arrives some days after you have returned,  do you realise that, without the sun and the cocktails, your humour has lost something in the journey home, especially when  Mrs Syringe in the accounts department (to whom the remarks were generally addressed) fails to see the joke and initiates the grievance procedure.

Such a misjudgement beset the Dover police when one of their officers sent a holiday postcard showing 5 topless African ladies, and suggested that this was South Africa’s answer to Mayfair magazine. That card later became the subject of a successful complaint to the Employment Appeal Tribunal from a Nigerian officer serving in the same force (and the subsequent handing over of a large quantity of compensation).

In this politically correct world anything which is not bland, colourless and dull is regarded as the grounds for a potential claim for compensation. Those who insist on sending holiday postcards to their office should therefore be careful to abide by a few simple rules.

· No postcards to be sent if they contain images of anyone not fully clothed.

· If showing pictures of mountains, ensure that their contours could in no way be mistaken for any human shape. The same applies to snakes balloons and sausages.

· Never send postcards showing donkeys, sheep or mating tortoises

· Never liken any of your colleagues to anyone or anything else, animate or inanimate.

· Ideally do not send postcards at all.

Solicitors, keen to expand their business, could offer a postcard consultancy service or, (for an even bigger fee), undertake to travel abroad and take care of their clients’ postcard writing. Each card would be screened for every conceivable “ism” and guaranteed litigation proof. As a service to the profession, the SOLICITORS JOURNAL offers a precedent for what is required:

Whereas we were somewhat delayed at Gatwick, and whereas the Plaza Continental (hereinafter called our hotel) has not yet been built, and notwithstanding that we are in the middle of a tropical storm, NOW THIS POSTCARD WITNESSES that we the undersigned are having a lovely time and wish you (the aforesaid) were here.

Published in Solicitors Journal 10 August 2001

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