Into the holly hedge this festive season go the post office, ntl, Barclays, all insurance companies and the allotments office at Brighton and Hove Council.
The post office, for obvious reasons, but chiefly for its decision makers' apparent inability to leave their desks. If I knew who to invite, I'd call them down to London Road post office for mince pies and a retro experience because the London Road post office reminds me of Romania when the Wall was still up.
I went on a press trip to Romania in the eighties. We were accompanied by a communist party official at all times. We visited Vlad's castle in Transylvania, some astonishing painted monasteries, saw black robed women in lines in the fields, a beautiful young gypsy woman in a cafe (and heard plenty of stories about Romanian racism) and toured coastal resorts with sixties names like Sputnik. We were taken to a department store where there was nothing on the shelves but crystal bowls.
This is the department store the London Road post office reminds me of. The post office is on the ground floor of an old Co-op, remarkable for its marble staircase, its size (dominating London Road) and always clean, large loos. It used to have a great toy department and handy fabric and haberdashery section. Then it closed but the post office stayed - tucked away in a corner of the vast, empty building with one or two cashiers at the most, not a single chair for the long line of pensioners who queue even out of season for an hour or more to get served.