What does the Queen keep in her handbag? Who invented windsurfing? What was Operation Pluto? And what treasures can be found in the British Postal Museum Archive?
The answers to these questions (and a lot more) can be found this eccentric, thought-provoking and amusing book, in which trivia nerd Mark Mason decides he wants to collect facts about every postcode area in Britain. They can’t be just any facts, though. They have to be facts that appeal to his sense of the amazingly coincidental or weirdly ironic. Also, if they relate to the Royal Mail, even better. He travels to (or through) at least some of the areas but he manages to include all of them and to have a little excitement along the way.
Mostly I really enjoyed this book. You could never tell what he was going to do next. He has a go on the fastest zipwire ride in Europe (Llandudno – LL postcode), eats Quality Street chocolates in Quality Street, Merstham (Redhill – RH), has an underwhelming hotel experience at the Watford Gap motorway services (Northamptonshire – NN) and accompanies a letter to the most northerly house (Shetland – ZE).
For every official fact he finds, several more are discussed, making this book a feast for trivia fans. There could’ve been less football included but it’s easy to skip over those bits. The pun of the title – Mail Obsession – is apt, because not only is the postal system a focus of the book, the narrator is a (middle aged) male obsessing over stereotypically ‘male’ interests. Transport, pubs, WW2 logistics, grandad music, sport history. He has a ‘grumpy old man’ persona and so I didn’t always agree with his outlook on the world, but I definitely share his delight in obscure and wonderful trivia.
The book was published in 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.