Monday, 17 October 2011

Chapter Four

Hi there everyone Sorry this has taken such a long time to be updated but we never got online until the other day.
Well here we are; made it; and moved in, but what a rollercoaster of a few days it has been. My last few days at work were very difficult and very sad. I have been a postman all my life since being thrown out of school at seventeen and a half. My headmaster and I didn't see eye to eye on many things and eventually there came a parting of the ways. From his side I cannot answer but from my side, I thought he was an idiot. School failed me as much as I failed it.
Remember of course that as a teenager you are A/. never wrong, and B/. you have all the answers. With that thought in mind I threw up two fingers at the school and marched out head held high. Keep your exams; keep your qualifications, and most importantly; keep your bloody advice to yourself because I'm going to be alright.
Six weeks later I was still looking for work...and nobody wanted to employ me. I didn't want to work inside and the things I was interested in needed qualification's. I was going nowhere fast when my mother announced she could get me a job working on the post for Christmas. This was christmas 1971 and I said "I'll do it."
I entered work on the monday morning at the Lower Bourne sub office and, at a stroke, found my vocation. Life was very simple it seemed to me; the longer hours you worked; the harder you worked; the more wages you got. For three weeks I was in a new world. Start at 6.00 am in the dark...finish at 6.00pm in the dark. Work hard, but most important of all, have a laugh.
This three weeks brought me more fun and laughter than I had known since my sister was killed nine years before. For the first time in my life I seemed to become the person I wanted to be...I was in control of my life ...and enjoying it. Shadows gone and a destination to aim at; it was brilliant. This was to be my new life and I revelled in it.
Then on Christmas Eve I was laid off.
"Sorry son," the inspector told me sadly,"I'd take you on tomorrow and be glad of it. We're short of staff in Farnham and you've got postman written all over you; but you're not eighteen yet. Come back when you are, if you're still interested."
Seven months later after labouring on building sites and earning £12.00 per week, I passed my 18th birthday on the 18th July. I re-applied and exactly three months later on the 18th of October 1972, I marched back in as full time postman on the princely some of £14.32 a week. On my very first day I did overtime,(docket), and  I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT FOR 29 YEARS; and then our ideals began to change.
We went through some tough times in the changes wrought after Royal Mail "became a business...not a service" in the 21st century and I yearned for things to be as they were when I first joined. I found I couldn't change and become part of the new way of thinking. I was not a business...I was still a service. I took a delivery at Bentley and thought I would just keep my head down.
To my delight I discovered I wasn't alone. Most postman are quite prepared to follow old fashioned service ideals and do the job as they remember it. Of course there are those that wont work and prefer to sit on their backsides and play with their phones, or go "walkabout" while others do the work for them. Its amazing how much coffee is drunk, how many fags are smoked, and how many conversations about football take place, when others are busy sorting. But these are not the people I missed then or now.
It is those others that I was glad to be a part of...and those in my corner of the office that made it such a pleasure to come into work to be with each day. These were the people I cared about most who seemed also to care about me...and I miss them and the banter more than I can say.
And then there is the community of people I delivered to. All became friends very quickly and some, to my delight, became close friends. I delivered to them in the way I was taught years ago. Not perhaps in the way that Royal Mail today would approve of, but very much in the way that my customers approved of. It's a very simple system that I used and its the one that was drummed into me all through my early days. Its the one that means that, and hand on heart you can't bring costs into it, 'customer first'. I loved my last few years at Farnham delivering the post and Bentley delivery was were I wanted to be. They became people I looked forward to seeing each day; people I cared about; and people who cared about me. I hated saying goodbye.
The last week had been very hard and the last day was very difficult,but I got a good send off from my friends at work. It took nearly half an hour to put my van back to rights...but it was a laugh. The delivery however was painful and took a long time to complete. Every body was very kind but it still felt like a bereavement. It was harder and harder to say goodbye to everyone...and even harder to say goodbye to the office.
When I got back, and I was the last postman back that day, only my manager remained. She was very good and let me walk around the place and take one final trip down memory lane before heading off. We said our goodbyes and I walked up the yard and drove out of the gate. It had been 38 years and 11 months to the day.
And then I got home and dived straight into the move.
The next few days were a frantic round of saying goodbye to friends and family before the removal men came on Tuesday. Saying goodbye to our closest friends was very difficult; saying goodbye to our parents and siblings was very hard; saying goodbye to our children was the toughest thing we have ever done in our lives.
I was bereft and sobbed bitterly as the painful goodbyes took place. I know we aren't far away...but it was still as high ranking in my emotions as the loss of my sister and the loss of my dad. Somehow you manage to square your shoulders afterwards and keep busy, but it was not easy.
And then the last day dawned and the biggest lorry in the world pulled up outside our house.
Several hours later we watched the lorry disappear up the road, "with our home packed in it."
The floors echoed loudly as we walked from room to room, and gave a final check before saying a final farewell. It had been our first real home together and we had loved living there. The two of us had turned it into a home and it had become our escape and our refuge. Now it was just a shell. The garden looked like a scene from the battle of the Somme...there was even a trench across part of it...and Linda could hardly recognise it.
Linda tearfully looked around once more before getting into her car and heading for Petersfield. Even on moving day she had one final appointment at the dentist to finish off three years of treatment. I had one last use of the toilet before I got into my car and headed off to the council offices to hand the house keys back in.
It is so hard to believe that just four months ago we had just started the South West Coast Path walk. That really had proved to be a longer journey than either of us had thought. I released the handbrake and headed for Petersfield.

No comments:

Post a Comment