Alice tells this story at dinner parties, when the conversation, along with the wine, has dried up. Back in the Sixties they received a letter from the Post Office. It was called the GPO, in those days.
It had been reported, the letter said, that a Mr G W Thoroughgood, a postman attached to the local office, had been bitten by a dog, of which they were understood to be the owners. Mr Thoroughgood had been incapacitated for duty. He had to add, wrote the Postmaster, (she imagined him looking sternly over his glasses here), that unless the dog was kept under control it would not be possible to continue delivery at their premises.
Derek laughed aloud when he read the letter that evening, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. He was waiting, when the policeman paid a visit. The policeman was young and nervous, and kept looking down at his shiny shoes. Derek raged and blustered as he led the poor boy on a tour of the house and garden. He opened the kitchen cupboards. Did the policeman notice any tins of dog food? Could he see a basket, a feeding bowl, a water dish, a lead? Was there a kennel in the garden? Did he, in fact, observe any evidence at all of the existence of a dog on their property? The policeman blushed, right into the roots of his hair, and stammered out an apology. Clearly, a mistake had been made.
Alice and Derek watched the policeman scuttle down the garden path. Whoever the dog was, said Derek, it served Mr Thoroughgood bloody well right. He had never liked the cocky little bastard, who insisted on calling him ‘Mate’ when he knocked with a parcel at the weekend. Derek was not the kind of man who had mates.
The shortcomings of Mr Thoroughgood were enumerated, well into the evening. He was incapable of closing the garden gate or of heeding the instruction ‘Do Not Bend’. A man who kept trying in vain to grow a moustache was not to be trusted. He was just a boy, masquerading as a man. Derek smirks at this point, whenever Alice tells the story. He is particularly proud of that insult.
Mr Thoroughgood never did return to that route. Alice missed his cheery smile, and the way he timed his deliveries to coincide with the moment the bacon began to sizzle in the pan. She missed the sound of his half-full bag being slung onto the hall floor as he came through the door she had left on the latch. Most of all, she missed running her finger gently over his unsuccessful moustache, wiping away crumbs and bacon fat, and traces of her lipstick. The one thing she could never understand was why he had said the dog belonged to them. She could only imagine he had become bored, and that it was his idea of a farewell joke. Alice never tells this part of the story.