Thursday, 13 September 2012


I fish out my key, unlock my mail box, a red and white card greets me. Royal Mail. 'Something For You' branded at the top. The time, today's date, my name and address. Damn! Now I'll have to go to the sorting office or rearrange delivery. I check my watch, it's a little after midday. I've just missed him. I shouldn't have walked my mum to the bus stop. Hang on, my block is usually first, there are three separate entrances. The postman must still be around somewhere. I'll hunt him down, claim my 'too large' packet. I was right! There he is! In the courtyard, in uniform and wheeling his trolley in front of him. I race across, shopping bags banging against my legs, and intercept him, “Sorry to trouble you, I think you have something of mine.” Waving the card in front of him. “No trouble.” He smiles, handing my prize: a white jiffy bag over.

I've always had a special relationship with the 'postman'. No, not the 'milkman' variety. As a girl, I'd learnt the game of 'Fetch!' Played it with the dogs. The rattle of the letter box, the sprint to collect. The door's mouth opening, a narrow slit, envelopes falling through. Sealed rectangles or squares picked up from the mat by my hands, not my teeth. My ponytail flicked: was there anything for me? Bouncing up and down if there was. Excited: who could it be? Who's writing was that? My name and address scribbled or printed carefully. Was it recognisable to me? Different scripts, calligraphy. Someone cared to put pen to paper, to write to me.

Postman Pat is to blame for this, him and his cat, Jess. On his rounds, bringing news to the villagers. Motoring along the lanes in his red van and plodding up their driveways. A whistle, a hum; pushing letters through the flap or a rat-a-tat-tat on the door. I'd watch, listen for Mr. Postie. He would come before school, rain or shine. A regular time, an identifiable gait. A race down the stairs, wait... The same game played even during the holidays, in another house.

Mail structured the world, forged new connections, before the Internet superseded it. Emails are not the equivalent. I grant you, the response is quicker, but is that better? Seeing 'New Mail' in bold, is not the same as receiving a stamped addressed envelope. Unsealing it with your fingers, not a click to open it. Holding a handwritten letter, not reading it typed off a screen. Correspondence like this is an occasional treat and will always be, for me, first class.