The Times, 18 September 2009

Not often, but sometimes, I wish I had children. Because only then could I reliably expect to have grandchildren (not that it's worked out that way for my mother). And only with grandchildren could I sit by a fireside one day, and tell them of a distant past when we had not one, but two postal deliveries a day. Yes, really, my child. Back in the 90s, two posts, both by midday. When their little faces frown at the very notion of a stamp, I shall sigh, and gaze into the middle-distance. Ah, post.

Because even one post a day has become a distant memory for me this summer. The threat of national postal strikes has come a step closer this week, as unions ballot 120,000 staff to vote on a walkout. But for those of us living in various parts of London, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough, this is hardly news. We've been getting one or two deliveries a week since July. A sample week goes like this: Mon-Wed, unofficial strike. Thursday, official strike. No post on Friday, because they have five days of post to sort, so no time to deliver. Some post on Saturday, usually junk mail.

Like most self-employed people, I rely on the post. Many of my employers pay me by cheque, and those have been arriving between a week and ten days after they were sent. It would, quite literally, be quicker to walk to most of these companies, pick up the cheque and walk home again than wait for the post to deliver it. I'm quite a strong swimmer, so I could do the overseas ones too.

We're told that postal workers are angry because, among other things, Royal Mail hasn't provided new sorting machines. On the rare occasions that the London strikes made the news, the picketers said they were striking in protest at the speed of change.

Usually, when people use the phrase ‘it's like turkeys voting for Christmas’, they use it to convey how unlikely that course of action would be. But not for the postal workers. Every time these strikes occur, I make active choices to use the post less. I've arranged for more of my employers to pay me electronically, because even though it's then harder to resolve mistakes, it's better than not being paid for weeks on end. I've signed up to courier delivery options on Amazon, and other websites, because I'd rather pay more for something to turn up at all, than pay standard P&P and never see my book arrive.

And if I'm doing it, other people will be, too. Once these strikes are eventually resolved, there will be fewer items of mail being sent every day, needing ever fewer postal workers. The men from UPS, FedEx and DHL, all of whom have couriered stuff to me this week, look delighted. The turkeys have voted for cranberry sauce.