Reasons why Fran misses her local post box

The post box on the corner of my street has been out of use for months. It's encased in black and yellow sticky tape that makes it look like a crime scene. This may well be the case. Perhaps some bored youth popped a lit match in there as his contribution to the wellbeing of his local community.

Whatever the reason, the Royal Mail seem to have decided not to reinstate it and that means that if I want to post a letter or small parcel, I can't just shuffle down our small street in my slippers without my upper lip plucked. I have to don shoes, a jacket and some pretence of respectability for the ten-minute trek up the hill to the local shopping arcade where the next nearest post box is.

My efforts are nothing compared to those my gran would have gone to. Her corner shop was only a few doors down yet she still applied perfect lipstick, her best coat and a fresh headscarf merely to fetch a tub of Blue Band margarine or a tin of peaches.  

'Gran,' we'd say. 'It's only the corner shop, not Fortnum & Mason's.'

But she swore blind that if she appeared out of doors without lipstick and a headscarf, she'd be 'looked down on'. 'I don't want to be like Mrs Brown, at the shop with her curlers in and a fag in her gob.'

Here's my gran, being visited at her care home by yours truly with the grandchildren. She died three years ago in her 90s. 

We've lived on our particular street for 12 years now and had become used to the convenience of our post box. Admittedly, though, we've used the traditional mail less and less over that time - technology has a lot to answer for - and that may be why Royal Mail aren't bothering with it. 

I don't mean to imply that it was solely our custom that kept it in use although it's worth the speculation ... 

'What about the post box near Albert Street? Shall we put that one back in service, boss?'

'Isn't that the one near that woman's house? The one in the slippers with the tache?'

'Yes, that's her. Thinks no one can see her, beetling to the post box at dawn with marmalade on her chin.'

'She hardly uses it these days. Perhaps once a fortnight. It used to be weekly or more but I bet she's using email now like everyone else.'

'Ah, let's not bother then. Let her spruce herself up and puff up the hill to the next one. That'll learn her.' 

Typically, just as my local post box gets decommissioned, I've begun to use the mail more. For one thing, I'm posting out copies of my book 'Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?' to people who want a signed copy. So, that makes it feel more worthwhile, hauling my carcass up to the post box.

Since you ask, £10 within the UK including P & P and a free bookmark. It's a funny memoir in diary form based on a typical year in my life as a teacher. Check out its reviews on Amazon. 


Also, I received an Actual Letter from someone earlier in the week. Someone I know had passed on my book to her as she'd been his English teacher when he was at school in the 70s and he thought she'd enjoy it. She did, and wrote to me, on proper paper, with a real pen, in that lovely copperplate script still used by some in their 80s and 90s.

Does anyone else get unreasonably excited at the sight of a hand-addressed envelope on the doormat?

I took another trip to the post box yesterday, therefore, to post her a reply. I'd foraged in a drawer for respectable writing paper and tried very, very hard with my handwriting, biting my lip with the effort like a five year old practising curly c and kicking k.

I sighed with regret, passing the decommissioned post box, and heifered my way uphill to the further one, all traces of marmalade wiped off the chin beforehand. 

I probably overdo the celebrations when I reach the postbox. 


  1. Magnificent as always. I particularly like the mental image of you ambling over to the postbox at dawn with marmalade on your chin. Used as an exfoliant, perchance? Or does it have moisturising qualities? I must try it. I LOVE a hand-written letter!

    1. I always keep a bit of marmalade on my chin in case I get peckish. I learned the trick from Paddington.

  2. Anonymous29/9/20 12:29

    This is lovely Fran. I so agree with you about the excitement of receiving a letter hand written and addressed to you. I think that's a definition of writing success: a reader writes a personal letter to you about your book.

    1. Thanks, Sheila. I think if she'd been younger she'd probably have emailed. It's sad to think that when that generation dies out, hardly anyone left will be writing letters. I have to teach letter-writing a lot - they still ask GCSE students to write letters in the English exams. I assume nothing these days and ask my 15/16 year olds, 'Do you know what I mean by a letter? How would you set a letter out? Where does the address go?' Few know for sure.

  3. Oooh! Copperplate writing. It's so beautiful. I once had a wedding invitation reply written in copperplate, saying they couldn't come, the couple were very old and one wasn't quite well enough. I think I still have it somewhere.
    Referring to your walking to the mailbox reminded me of my across-the-street neighbour 40+ years ago, who would get into her car, drive 50 feet to the corner, turn the corner and drive another 30 feet to the mailbox, then drive home again. so lazy! And I knew there was nothing wrong with her, she was able to walk, but preferred the convenience of the car.

    1. Your neighbour! I'm a bit resistant to walking, but not THAT resistant!

  4. Haha. This is utterly hilarious, My favourite parts are the image of a person shuffling down the street in slippers and the bit about 'heifering' up the hill! I absolutely refuse to believe you look anything like these pictures in reality but you are very good at sending yourself up. I also LOVE that pic of your gran and the little 'uns. Very clever, LOLworthy post, Mrs H.

    1. It's best to get the self-criticism in before anyone else does! Yes, great pic of Gran. Four generations spanned, there.

  5. Yes! I love to get a letter. I love to send a letter. But since my second and final aunt died, I have no one to write to.

    1. That's sad. Would no one else in your family like to start getting letters? I was just reminded of a pen pal I had in my teens, a strange boy who send me bits of home made radio in his envelopes and long explanations of how to use them. I wonder what he's doing now!!


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