First things first. Mail or post? Mail box or post box? Mail man or postman? It’s post, post box and postman or ‘postie’ for me.
When we moved back to the UK from Germany the first time my son, having been born in Germany had no concept of post coming through the door. So fascinated was he by the idea of letters straight into the home, he started to wait at the door for the postman. He’d happily take the letters and then lift the letter box to shout ” Thank you!”. The postman went on his way smiling. Post is magic when you’re a child. We lose that as adults. I blame bills and junk mail.
Throughout lockdown, I’ve walked for miles with The Wolf. Through field and forest, along farm tracks and through villages. All around the Garrison and the military training area and once accidently into a military exercise, but that’s another story. One thing I’ve spotted everywhere are post boxes. Different styles and ages. Some seemingly remote, but a bit of research usually shows that they used to be handy for one community or another. One middle-of-nowhere box used to be on the edge of a long- gone military camp. Imagine all the letters to sweethearts and parents , good news and bad that dropped into that little box.
The one above is my favourite, tucked away into the wall and draped in ivy. It’s set at the end of a street of 1930’s married quarters in one of the older parts of the town. There’s also a lovely, original Narnia-esque lamp post near by. Every time I walk past this box, it makes me wish I had a letter to post.
Or how about this one, for something a little different. Spotted on the remains of a mediaeval priory in Kent. This one might pre-date the days of a post system for the masses, I think.
I haven’t posted anything much in recent years. Adult life and modern technology didn’t leave me with much need to. Everyone and everything seems to work online or through an app now. Post seems slow and old fashioned by comparison. Maybe it is, but just look at this face…
That’s the face of a boy who has received a letter from his Grandad. And there’s the thing, post might be slower but it doesn’t just deliver a letter. It delivers joy, thoughts and the time that one person has invested into writing to another. This letter also delivered giggles because good old Grandad had written it in the style of Officer Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo.
With a lock down limitations and Mr THL deployed overseas, post has come become meaningful. With half the world between us and precious little time or privacy to talk, letters are a lifeline. Parcels too. Mr THL left us in the Summer and won’t return until next Spring. Post is his link to home and by return, our window into his world. He can’t be here doing the day-to-day right now, but this kids have treats from Estonia and Latvia in their lunch boxes and Dad jokes to tell via ‘Dad Mail’.
If you look up ‘welfare boxes’ on Pinterest , you’ll see how creative some families get with these little boxes from home. Being honest, mine are a bit more rough and ready. It’s the thought that counts, right?
With families kept apart, letters are connections. It can be a joy to receive one, especially if it’s unexpected. My husband’s Great Aunt writes beautiful letters in exquisite handwriting , on the prettiest paper and cards. She inspires me to write and deliver a little envelope of beauty into someone’s day. Cue daydreams of me sitting at an antique bureau in a vintage frock writing witty but elegant letters with a fountain pen. My reality might not be quite so romantic, but the joy of being the sender or recipient of a well written letter remains.
So you can post a letter today and deliver a smile to someone tomorrow but it’s not just about the sending and receiving, as important as that is. It’s about Royal Mail and historic post boxes, the history and heritage. If we use it, we preserve it. Post boxes deserve a bit of interest and attention, they are little boxes of heritage dotted about the place.
My interest in all things post related ( there’s a thing I never thought I’d write) has been brewing for a while. There’s a whole world of history and emotion behind the logistics of post that I find fascinating. I’d hoped to dive into the topic by visiting The Postal Museum in London. It’s a celebration of all things post from the evolution of letter boxes to letters of WW2; exploring the city’s underground Mail Rail to the design of the Royal Mail uniform. Even an underground ‘Mail Rail It’s currently closed due to national lockdown, but you can make a virtual visit here.
Our trip to London had to be cancelled due to the Teenagers needing to isolate following a Covid scare. Luckily, all was well and I’m sure we’ll get to the Capital and the Museum at some point. In the meantime I’m going to use that post box I’ve been admiring. To send letters and cards, taking time to think about what to write, to enjoy adding the stamp and dropping it into the letter box. Are you using post more this year? Maybe you always did? Let’s chat in the comments. Pictures of favourite, foreign or plain unusual post boxes and other posty things a bonus.
Antique bureau, vintage frock and fountain pen completely optional but highly desirable.