I watched too much television over Christmas. I don't suppose I'm alone in that, but I probably watched more bits of things than most people because I didn't buy a TV guide in the mistaken belief that I wouldn't be tempted to watch as much that way. Consequently, what I saw had an element of pot luck.
One of the things I almost missed was Going Postal, the television adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel. I love Terry Pratchett's books, and I've wanted to love previous television adaptations, but somehow these have never hit the mark for me before. I'm not sure why. The adaptations have great casts, imaginative sets and all the zaniness of the originals, but they've always left me unsatisfied.
The only answer I can come up with is that they lack the genius of Terry Pratchett's language. His are the only novels that make me laugh out loud, but he has more than a witty turn of phrase. He creates word pictures in the reader's imagination that are far too vivid for any visual representation to compete with. Take the opening lines of Pyramids for example: 'Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the windscreen of his car and hadn't bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces' or this, later on: '... the silence beyond the cell, which had been the silence caused by absence of sound, very slowly became the silence caused by someone making no noise.' How on earth can you put that on a screen? The visual portrayal is the equivalent of telling rather than showing.
So what was different about Going Postal? I think it was the fact that it was about the postal service. I have a lifelong association with the Royal Mail. I used to work on the counter in a Crown Office, I collected stamps as a child, and my father was a postman, as was a next-door neighbour. I love getting letters and cards (not bills, so much). Generally, the postie delivers good things. I know lots of people who have a secret affection for the post office and posties, in the same way they do for milk floats and milkies, or double-decker buses and clippies. It's comforting to know they're there, even if you no longer use them very often. They're everyday heroes making sure we all stay connected whatever the weather, no matter how remote, and even in these days of instant digital fly-through-the-ether messages, I wouldn't want to be without them.