Tuesday, December 22, 2009

merry bastard christmas

Here's a curious thing - we've had the usual lot of misdirected Christmas post through the door this year, but one item in particular caught my eye. Take a look at this:

My first instinct was that this was some sort of elaborate poison-pen letter, you know: I suppose we should send the Smiths a card, but I never really liked them very much. I know, I'll write a card, but I'll address it to:


Trouble is, this would only work if - by some frankly implausible coincidence - this actually was their address, otherwise they'd never get it and the joke would be lost. And if it actually was their address, well, it would just be their address, wouldn't it? Everyone would be using it.

Something else must be going on here. A bit of pretty basic Googling reveals that there is indeed a York Place in Abercarn, and a bit more Googling turns up this fascinating discussion forum thread trying to determine the location pictured (and cryptically captioned - it reads "NEW DRILL HALL AND SPITEFULL") on an old postcard:

The mystery is solved here - it turns out that the area on the western bank of the Ebbw river round these parts was historically known as "the Spiteful"; I strongly suspect this to be an Anglicised corruption of some original Welsh place-name. The equivalent photograph taken from the same viewpoint today might very possibly show the house to which the Christmas card was intended to be sent.

Pulling on my deerstalker and lighting up a nice pipe of opium I deduce the following: whoever sent the card is probably of pensionable age. The usage of "Spiteful" can only be out of historical habit, I'd be almost certain it's not part of the "official" address any more. The old-fashioned cursive writing style (check out the initial - I think it's an F) suggests that as well. My guess is the recipients are probably of a similar age, as the likelihood is that they've lived there since that address was "current".

Anyway, having wrung all the available amusement and interest out of the card, I'd better go and pop it back in the postbox and see if I can get it redirected. I could just bin it, but that would be - wait for it - spiteful. Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week.

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