My guv'nor Mr Screwtape isn't keen on Season's Greetings so we haven't sent out any cards. That's why you haven't got one. This caused ructions with Mr Screwtape's boss, The Prince of Darkness, who has taken up with his KleenBetta lady, Davinia, and she says she sends ALL her clients a Season's Greetings card and a pre-printed calendar.
Davinia is a tall lady who runs a catalogue. They met when she sold His Excellency half a dozen silicone strips for the edge of his barbecue so he doesn't keep searing his forelegs when he fires-up his favourite toy. I had hoped His Lordship might lose interests in the specifics of business as he's more of a front-man than an executive, but unfortunately he seems to have developed an interest in interfering in HellCo's successful on-line homewares enterprise.
“Davinia says that it's scientifically proven. You give people an unwanted calendar, they give you whatever you ask for. Why don't you do, that, Screwey!” bellowed His Highness “Always with you it's a one-man resistance. You've got a secretary, what's-her-name, get her to write them out. You've only got to put your hoof-print stamp on and I know you've got a spare hoof to do that with because I gave you one last Seasons's Greetings. Or did you take that back to the shop?”
Mr Screwtape was about to wave the bronze-tipped goat-hoof about. It sits on an Edwardian ink-well on his desk. The oblong glass dish has all the writing accessories you could wish; a sand-pot for blotting, an ink-well, a blood-well, an ink-pad, little jars for sealing wax candles, a glass tray with tiny little carved-bone rests for pens, seals, knives, and a standing mat for the inky hoof. It is a so-and-so to clean to concours standard, even with KleenBetta writing-stand spray. Mr Screwtape says there is nothing like bright brass ormolu fittings for impressing a signatory to a Heart's Desire contract, so once a month I'm in there with the aromatic hydrocarbons and a cotton bud. Yes, the Biro was a wonderful invention, especially those space pens which write upside-down underwater, but where is the drama, the mystery, the conviction, that sense of 'I've written this, I know what I'm doing and I mean it'?
“Your Excellency”, I cut in, “Mr Screwtape would like to present to you the results of the Hell's Bells Postal Campaign. As you know, Davina likes to send all her customers a personal Seasons Greetings card, but then she is going round their houses anyway. HellCo would not be able to do that due to the size of your magnificent constituency and it would be East - sorry, the Chocolate Egg Harvest - before we got all the hand-delivered cards out.”
“May We be the first to wish you Season's Greetings”, chuckled His Satanic Majesty, his fruity laugh rattling the pens in Mr Screwtape's writing stand.
When Mr Screwtape and I had picked ourselves up from being helpless with mirth and ROFLOAO, I continued.
“So Mr Screwtape began a campaign to improve postal services according to the unique HellCo design manual which has made your organization the elite corps it is today.”
“He did?” said Lord Lucifer. “I did?” whispered Mr Screwtape.
“Mr Screwtape introduced the four-phase postal grading system to streamline the delivery of greetings cards. If the card exceeds a given size in any of the common dimensions - length, width, depth and weight - the Post Office will not deliver it but will put a note through the door which costs them more than delivering the letter would have, and you have to pay a fine which does not quite cover the cost of doing that.
“As a result, more cards than ever are stranded in depots, especially the ones containing small sums of money for children, more people than ever have received baffling notes which they can't really do anything about as they have no idea where the sorting office is, and the Post Office will still lose a fortune as it costs nearer £5 per letter to do it this way, once you factor in all the printing, note-writing, storage and pension costs. Best of all, although sorting offices can handle money, you can't actually buy the right sort of stamps there, so you still have to go to a post office and queue for half an hour. By standing at the tail of the queue with a contract, our agents have been able to obtain souls for the bargain price of queue-jumping. Approximately five per cent of those signatories are blameless little old ladies who have had a lifetime of doing the flowers in our Competitor’s outlets.”
The Arch Demon pursed his lips for a moment, thinking, then slapped Mr Screwtape on the back, sending him flying across the Reception Area. The goat's-foot ink stamper flew out of Mr Screwtape's hand and chipped the edge of his precious malachite desk-top.
“You old joker, Screwey” yelled His Excellency, shoving a celebratory Castro cigar in to Mr Screwtape's mouth, which he lit. The cigar promptly exploded and Lord of the Underworld laughed so hard that coughed himself to a standstill. When he recovered himself, he looked quizzical:
“What about time? You said four dimensions; length, width, depth and weight. What about time?”
Mr Screwtape picked shreds of exploded tobacco out from between his teeth.
“Time has little meaning as a concept in the Post Office, My Lord”.
Debbie, P.A to Mr Screwtape.