A carrier worthy of his post
When Alec takes time off, we can always tell. The signs are unmistakable: We get at least three items of morning mail addressed not only to people who have never crossed the threshold of our house, but who quite evidently spend their days living in other houses.Skip to next paragraph
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How can we know this?
It has something to do with what is written or printed on the envelopes.
When Alec takes time off, he is replaced with a temporary postman. This nameless substitute, and he may well be a different one each time for all I know, cannot be called well qualified for the post (if you'll excuse the pun).
For instance, although the number and name of our house is attached with noteworthy screws to both of our gateposts - HILLTOP 48 - we are, when Alec is away, the daily recipients of letters addressed to 46, 48a, and even 52.
Phoning (as I always do) the local sorting office on Victoria Road to complain enables me to revisit socially with the man in charge of our area (and it is always a cheery occasion), but it never makes the slightest difference. He seems just as amazed as we are by the situation. He promises he will "have a word" with the alternate postman. But still we continue to have other people's epistles.
After two weeks of this approximate service (which never seems to bring us a windfall of cash, or a Rembrandt, or anything we might feel eager to keep), we can instantly divine Alec's reappearance in the neighborhood. All of a sudden, we are no longer being asked to pay other people's invoices or remail their mail-order catalogs. Nor, presumably, they ours.
I have a friend living in Suffolk on the East Coast of England who tells me that when she and her husband lived in another village, the local postperson, Pam by name, was famous for delivering mail to wrong addresses. The inhabitants were benevolently sensitive to her feelings, however, and they would wait until she had delivered all the local mail before issuing from their houses to exchange letters and packages, electricity bills and birthday cards. The process was known among them as "Doing a Pam."
One of the advantages of not living in the United States is that the mail carrier comes right up to your door. He doesn't just lean nonchalantly out of his car and throw your mail into a galvanized and flagged tube on a stick out on the street.
We have letter boxes (I gather Americans call them "slots") on our front doors, and the post is pushed through from the outside world into your very own private space. You only have to pad down the hall to pick it up. It is the gallant postman who braves all weathers to bring it right to your home.
One of our neighbors often invites Alec in for a warming beverage and a chat. If I am quick enough to catch him before he heads off down our gravel - he is very quick and efficient - I usually have a few words with him. He is a young man of opinions, and happy to voice them (fast). He is also uncomplicatedly interested in your mail, and happy to discuss its character and contents.