For many years now Royal Mail Postman Pat Clifton was the man you could always rely on in Greendale. He was the glue that held the community together, the face of officialdom that could be relied on to being the post whatever the weather. Not only did he bring the mail he was often there to save the day in many a community crisis.
But watch Pat at work today and something has gone terribly wrong. Rather than being the glue that holds the Greendale community together he seems to be the cause of most of the local problems. If you’ve a special event and need a package for it delivered on time, these times you can guarantee there will be some dreadful and potentially dangerous cock-up.
For example tasked with delivering a telescope to a child Pat failed to get the package there during daylight hours, and instead dangerously drove offroad on his motorcycle trying to follow a Satnav he was incapable of operating. While one may commend his dedication, having to make up for daytime slacking by tear-arsing around the countryside in the dark on a powerful motorbike – when he knows children are in the area – is foolhardy at best, criminally negligent if we’re really honest.
Yet day after day this is how Pat is operating. He’s a loose cannon. He’s losing it. Nearly every episode of the documentary that follows his career we see him make some blindingly stupid error that leads to a package arriving very late, or not at all, in some cases the complete wrong item is delivered to a customer. Such is the community spirit of Greendale that in these cases the community pretends that “all’s well that ends well” and the solution was better than the original idea. It’s lovely the people feel so protective of Pat, but how long can this continue, how long can they cover his incompetence? With the movement of new people into he area who won’t know Pat, sooner or later some towny is going to dob poor Pat in. Perhaps it would be best for Pat if they did. Sooner or later Pat’s increasingly erratic behaviour and poor standard of work is going to get someone killed, especially as the Special Delivery Service allows Pat to fly the company’s helicopter.
How have matters got this far? What on earth is going on in Pat’s like to turn such a workaholic icon into the local baffoon?
We only have to look at the changes in Pat’s life for clues to why he’s not the man he once was. I think we can begin to trace the beginning of the troubles back to 2000 when Pat Clifton was sacked by the Royal Mail because he no longer “fitted its corporate image”. And one can understand that, having a spokesman that was cheery, arrived before lunchtime and didn’t steal your DVDs from Amazon really didn’t fit the Royal Mail as it is today.
His sacking and the privatisation of the postal service in the sleepy Cumbrian village of Greendale must have come as a shock to Postman Pat. He spent years as the friendly, cheerful – and most importantly competent – face of the Royal Mail. Greendale – a place where you could guarantee your parcel would get there safely, without what Royal Mail calls “insurance” – that little protection racket they run where they charge you extra for the postman not to steal your stuff.
And so Pat began work for the local Special Delivery Service, a very modern and different organisation to that which he was used to. No longer was it a case of popping down to Mrs Goggins’ post office in Greendale for his sack, and tootling around the village in his van delivering a few letters. Now Pat has to serve a large area on the Cumbria/Yorkshire border – covering Greendale, Ingledale, Pencaster and Garner Bridge. This is a massive area that stretches to the East Coast at Pencaster, and managing deliveries as the senior operative for SDS is perhaps too ambitious for a simple former-postman.
From the modern sorting office in Pencaster Pat is expected to deliver across the whole region making use of technology and unfamiliar vehicles such as motorcycles and helicopters. No doubt the complexity of such a role – especially as he’s called on as the company’s trouble shooter by manager Ben Taylor – is an increasing source of stress in Pat’s life. The truth is that poor Pat Clifton just can’t hack it.
And that’s not the only pressure in Pat’s life. He’s now married to former Post Office worker Sara Clifton. Sara works as a “waitress” in a “late night club” and I think we can all guess what that means. Poor Pat, the strain of such a relationship can’t be easy on top of all the other pressures he is under including raising his wayward son Julian. Young tearaway Julian seems intent intent on either always getting into danger or sabotaging Pat’s delivery runs in some way. One wonders why he hates his father so much.
You add all these pressures together and it’s no wonder that Pat is failing to do his job in a competent manner. Pat must realise things aren’t going well and tends to seek the help of his best friend – local garage owner and “inventor” – Ted Glen. But Glen is hardly the man to turn to either – his slurred speech suggests he’s a man who enjoys a few cold beverages after breakfast. That’s his own demon to deal with, but his garage tends to be Pat’s first port of call on each delivery run.
The result is that we’re left with a out of his depth, cuckolded, incompetent drunk running the major postal distribution in a large area of northern England. Poor Pat, once the hero of Greendale, now likely to end up on the news for crashing a helicopter into a group of schoolchildren.