This coronavirus pandemic has just reminded me of how important the post office is. I can take comfort in knowing that the postman will be doing his — or her — rounds every day, five days a week.
He will call to houses delivering mail. And now that this coronavirus has turned half of the world into house hermits, most postmen are also picking up mail as well.
Yes, we live in a time now where practically all of our bills arrive virtually. The water, the electricity, the cooling, the telephone, the health insurance premiums or whatever other monthly outlays we have on services and utilities — all come by email by rote. And then they send all sorts of other notifications too — all by email to fill up you inbox.
Even to this day, I still find being in a post office a magical place. There’s all sorts of parcels and boxes, mailbags, little weighing scales and big books of stamps — the who place reeks of officialdom in a way that is slightly intimidating but comforting too
But I still think there’s something magical in having a postman call to your door every morning — or more correctly on the mornings when there’s mail for you.
Mail gets delivered
In the UAE, post comes to your place of work or to a post office box, so the daily interaction with the mail workers are mostly missing. But in Europe and North American, vast legions of postal workers still do their daily walk — or drive — making sure that no matter what the weather, the mail still gets delivered.
My sister, Theresa, lives on top of a mountain in Ireland. They have sheep, run school buses, are engaged in forestry and construction, and also run walking tours and she has a bed and breakfast as well.
If you’ve watched that series ‘Vikings’, it was filmed at the lake at the bottom of the mountain where she lives.
You wouldn’t be able to find her rural farmhouse unless you knew where you were going — it’s at the end of a narrow country lane that’s at the end of a slighter wider country lane, that leads to a narrow country road — and then some — before you get the village of Roundwood, which promotes itself as the highest village in Ireland.
Come rain or sunshine
But even in Carrigeenduff, when the snow settles in or the mountain is shrouded for weeks on end in a winter drizzle that would chill you to your bones, the postman always delivers his mail.
I’ve been there when he arrives, it’s the end of his run. He comes in, plonks himself at the kitchen table in front of the solid-fuel cooker, has a mug of steaming hot, strong tea and some toasted and buttered soda bread.
He’s almost so at home I’d expect him to kick off his boots and put up his woollen socks to allow them to steam warm in front of the fire.
I always remember the excitement coming up to Christmas when Christmas cards would begin to arrive. We had an elderly relative in Johannesburg and there would be a little scrap between my brothers and I to see who could their hands on the exotic stamps first.
Then there were envelopes from Canada and the US, from Italy and Britain. These were countries that were so far away they were the stuff of imagination and black-and-white travelogues and nature programmes on Sunday evenings — but the postman brought them to us.
Even to this day, I still find being in a post office a magical place. There’s all sorts of parcels and boxes, mailbags, little weighing scales and big books of stamps — the who place reeks of officialdom in a way that is slightly intimidating but comforting too.
The postmaster or postmistress were pillars in the community, with the power to loudly stamp your letter after they adjudged it worthy to mail when you handed it in, and sent it around the world. Long may they survive.
— Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe