Mark Keenan: Win a year's supply of junk mail...
... But I've read it all first
As a property owner, the advantage of mortgaging for life to one little rectangular patch of earth and bricks is that you get to do what you want (within reason) on your own turf and in your own back yard.
Paint the walls neon apple green, festoon your front porch with a cohort of plastic meerkat gnomes (all on lookout), declare your own republic and hoist a flag to prove it – you can even put your feet on the sofa. You rule.
Except for junk mail.
The letterbox opens and six enrolment forms for a Brazilian soccer school spew out across the hall floor. You bend down to pick it up every day, sometimes many times a day. Car washes, estate agents, supermarkets, pizza offers.
After a while there's so much of it that, like the neighbours, I get a plate attached to my letterbox that says 'NO JUNK MAIL'. But still the print waterfall continues. And I have to dispose of it all.
So one day I decide on a cunning plan, but not without a little tongue in cheek.
Vengeance will be mine on at least one of those enterprises that thinks it can fly in the face of my 'NO JUNK MAIL' sign.
I'll collect my junk mail and stash it all away in a big bin liner bag – every piece of it – for a year. Then after 12 months I'll draw out one unlucky 'winner' – I'll get the address on it and I'll go down there and stuff every piece of junk mail that I've collected through the year into that one letterbox.
So I collected it all, every day for a year. Plumbers, driveway pavers, exhaust fitters, the lot.
By the time the big day came, the bin liner sack was almost full. I tipped it out on the floor and counted 743 items including doubles and trebles, presumably by leaflet monkeys anxious to get their rounds done quicker.
Back into the bag they all went. I closed the top, grasped it tight and gave it a great big shake. Then I dipped my hand inside to grab one sheet.
And the unlucky winner is... the parish newsletter!
So I had to have a think about this one. I didn't really fancy going around to the parish hall and ditching all this stuff inside.
They did a lot of good work and perhaps in essence this wasn't junk mail at all given that it performed a community service function. So by jury of one, I ruled this 'winner' null and void.
So my hand went back into the bag. The new winner was some guy looking for employment. He'd written his name and address on a narrow strip of white paper – will do any jobs, grass cutting, painting, window cleaning.
Rather than sit on his bum, the guy was getting out there and looking for work. There's no way I could drop all this lot on him. He should be commended. Fair play. I might hire him for painting. I stick this one on the fridge. My hand goes back in the bag.
The new winner... is the local Chinese takeaway – by virtue of posting an updated menu. But then again, I do like the food and this menu will be useful. Why have they dropped the honey ribs? I keep an album of menus for when we're too lazy to cook. So this goes in there.
The winner is... the earnest local councillor who posts a flyer in the letterbox every time a grass verge gets cleaned up or new traffic light gets installed. He thinks by letting us know on a leaflet with his face airbrushed picture onto it that we'll all think he was responsible and vote for him. Well now he'll get a load more papers at the box alright.
But then again, he was one of just two politicians to turn up to an emergency meeting we had about flood damage to our homes. He was probably at least part responsible for the new camera installed over the nearby river drain so the council can keep an eye on it for blockages.
I should give him a break just for that. Maybe even consider voting for him.
OK the hand goes back in the bag. The winner is... a company that collects clothes for charity and distributes them in the third world. Back to the bag. A local amateur soccer team looking for players. Nothing too serious, just a weekly run around. I could get back in training. Back to the bag: the local freesheet newspaper.
I worked for one of these once upon a time as a teenager. I don't know how they manage to survive. There's a big ad for the councillor on the cover. Has he entered twice by proxy? The hand goes back in the bag, another guy looking for work.
So the big bag of junk mail goes in the recycling bin.
And the guy with the 'no junk mail' plate has read most of it.