It’s In The Post

I love trains. Both the real or the train-set variety. So when the Vet and the Pest Controller bought me a ticket to ride on the Mail Rail, I was in heaven.

Do you remember the excitement of receiving a letter, in the days before email and tax reminders? In many ways that love has never left me, even if most these days are offering me more junk than junkets. Reading the letters Dad wrote to Mum between 1944 and 1948, when I discovered them after her death has been both a  joy and unutterably poignant.

Here’s an example: Dad was waiting for a posting, having completed his training as the War ended – he was off to Palestine shortly – but meanwhile was enjoying a ‘break’ in the Brecons in Wales.

dad’s letter 31 Jan 1946 – Copy

And some thirty years later, I was grinding through my Law finals in Guildford while the Textiliste finished her degree back in Bristol. I’ve kept all her letters to me but I’d have to kill myself to publish any here – let this short extract give you an idea, even if neither of us has a clue about the Napoleon reference nor why she had taken to calling me Josephine!

linda letter 5 Oct 1978 – Copy

The point is, how much I adored seeing those envelopes on the mat. Was there any better experience (well, apart from seeing her on the mat…)? The receipt of the post was special, as in SPECIAL and can email ever replace that? Will we keep emails as long as Mum kept Dad’s letters and I’ve kept the Textiliste’s?

The postal service we have today is a mite different to that of ten years ago, let alone fifty. When it was established, back in the dim and distant it proved crucial to both business and personal lives. And London was, inevitably, the hub for so much. Main line stations saw a mass of post arriving that needed sorting and sending on. Crossing London with it was a nightmare so a railway was built, during and after WW1, electric powered and running seven days a week.

Eventually, it carried upwards of 4 million pieces of post to the sorting offices and then out to the destinations. In 2003, as letters lost out to email, it closed but, glory be! it has been rescued, at least in part to allow people like me to sit in a carriage, a tight squeeze this and hurry across town imagining myself a love letter or an offer of a job (never a tax demand, mind you).

This is for the big kids in us all. It’s informative and fun and, on a bleakly cold day, at an even temperature so far under the earth.

I’ll end with an extract from the Post Office film’s 1930s masterpiece – The Night Mail – written by WH Auden with music by Benjamin Brittain which was penned to reflect the rhythms of the London to Glasgow Post Office express. Genius.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in history, London, trains, transport and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to It’s In The Post

  1. I love the old steam trains, and one of the joys of my childhood was hanging over the bridge in Poole High Street as the train went underneath. The smell is unique, awesome, and wonderful, no doubt some HSSE would have something to say about it now.
    I still write old fashioned letters to help keep the Royal Mail in business. I wrote to Mum every week, sometimes twice even when she was in hospital, knowing I wouldn’t get a reply. It didn’t matter as I knew those letters meant a lot to her. I’ve written a couple to my uncle, her brother, and also my Dad’s surviving sister since Mum died. Again no reply, but I’m not worried. It’s helping me with the grieving process, so in a way is a bit selfish I suppose. I just miss writing to Mum.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I miss real letters. Email just isn’t the same at all. I love history so found this so very interesting and the first letter…Ahh no when he said he had to get up in the morning and put soaked clothes on…Oh no that’s awful! such a lovely letter. Glad you enjoyed your day with these lovely trains 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hanorah21 says:

    I have an ancient postcard scrapbook given to me years ago by an old lady. In it are postcards sent from and to London addresses arranging and confirming meeting up the SAME day. Who needs email?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ritu says:

    Letters I miss… trains I’m not too fussed about but glad you got to have a bit of railway fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    I love letters, I still sometimes write them. I live steam trains too.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Charli Mills says:

    I had no idea about the mail rail. I suppose this is a point of nostalgia similar to that of the American Pony Express.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Underground horses.. hmm a bit to close to the scandal of pit ponies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ha! Might be a stinky prospect, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I have a friend who now owns a former farm house in the Savoire in France which is covered in snow for a third of the year. Back when it was farmed they brought the cattle in, in November and kept them in until April. Now that basement stabling is bedrooms but there’s still an ambience of ordure about it – so much so his children go one a sh*t sniffing when they arrive and open up to make sure the air is now mountain fresh…

        Like

If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s