Don't Mind Me: Geography that is lost in the post

Patricia Feehily

Reporter:

Patricia Feehily

Don't Mind Me: Geography that is lost in the post

Not just a problem at the post office: A number of Eircodes say Limerick, when the house is actually in Clare or Tipperary

A SENSE of place is a great asset. It gives us a feeling of belonging, an enduring identity and a crazy, irrational loyalty that can sometimes make fools of the best of us. At least that’s how it affects me.

Except that I’m now having major problems with my address. We live on the Tipperary side (the best side, dare I say) of the River Shannon, but our post office is on the other side in County Clare. “I don’t know what you’re grumbling about,” someone said the other day, “you’re lucky to have a post office so close to you in this day and age.”

The trouble is that An Post is finding it increasingly difficult to grasp the concept of Killaloe Post Office catering for people in a different county. I’m sure this is a problem in many other border areas and it will become an even bigger problem as small post offices close around the country and years of experience and local knowledge are lost. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when they take geography off the obligatory list of Junior Cert subjects in a year or so. Even as it is, any mail addressed to us at Ballina, Killaloe, County Tipperary, arrives a couple of weeks late, having gone through Ballina in County Mayo, where it takes several weeks to decipher. When we use County Clare, the mail usually arrives promptly, but either way, it often comes stamped with a snotty message, “Please inform the sender of your correct address”. Talk about adding insult to injury!

In all the years we’ve lived here, we’ve never had a problem with the address until a couple of years ago when the age of mass communication eventually peaked and nobody could tell us which county we should use as our official address. Now, there’s no point in telling me to use my postcode number instead, because I’ve lost it. Anyway, it got our location wrong too and uprooted us from the townland where my husband’s family home stood for three centuries and planked us in an adjoining townland.

Like displaced people everywhere, we felt a bit sore about it. I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t find my bearings at all.

All my ranting and railing had no effect whatsoever on the officials. My grievance was ignored and at this stage, with Google maps joining in the conspiracy, I’ve abandoned all hope of ever being restored to our rightful address, which, by the way, is still our ‘correct postal address’. That’s where we live, it’s where we exist on the voters’ list and that’s where the farm and farmhouse are located for the subsidies. It’s the ‘county’ conundrum that continues to confound us. Follow your instincts, someone advised, or pick the county that does best in the hurling championship. Ouch, my sense of place!

All I can say is that it’s a real pain in the butt to have an ambiguous postal address that bestrides two different counties and drives computers into frenzies. It is my firm belief that as more and more small post offices disappear and our grasp of local geography diminishes even further, many more people will find themselves discommoded by vacillating postal addresses.

The authorities don’t care about our sense of place and they care even less about boundaries or loyalties. The countryside is riddled with anomalies.

Our neighbours across the road from us, for instance, are in the Killaloe Garda division centred a mile down the road, while we, only a couple of hundred yards away are in the Nenagh division eight miles away. When my husband was recovering in the Regional Hospital recently during the record bed shortage crisis, he was told he might be transferred out to Ennis General Hospital 30 miles away from us, rather than nearby Nenagh. Why? Because his address, they pointed out, was in County Clare!

The last time I bought a new car, I nearly ended up with a Clare registration number plate for the same reason. It wouldn’t have mattered really only that my sense of place just couldn’t handle it.

So my question is this: in a time when old divisions and old boundaries are being wiped off the map by disinterested administrators; when geography is no longer that relevant in the education of our young people and when we don’t even know our neighbours anymore, is this sense of place a bit of an anachronism?

Or does it still define who we are, what we are and what we stand for? If it does, I think I’m really going to have to get the address right, once and for all.