The Last Post

By the time you read this I will no longer be a postman. I will be a retired person instead.

So this is my goodbye letter to everyone I’ve delivered mail to over the last 13 years.

I’ve done many rounds and pushed many letters through many letter boxes all over Whitstable.

Most recently I’ve been delivering to Borstal Hill, Harbour Street and Sydenham Street. In the past I’ve delivered to Herne Bay Road, Ham Shades Lane, Canterbury Road, Island Wall, Middle Wall and the High Street. And those are only the main roads. There have been many others, too numerous to mention.

I’ve delivered to Whitstable, Tankerton, Seasalter, Swalecliffe and Chestfield.

Perhaps some of you will recognise me. Perhaps, even, some of you will remember me with affection.

I dread to think how many letters I’ve delivered in that time. Millions.

Most of it has been complete rubbish – advertising mail, junk mail, sales brochures and the like – but some of it has been important.

I’ve delivered Christmas cards, birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, Easter cards and New Year’s greetings. I’ve delivered postcards from around the world. I’ve delivered hospital appointments, letters from loved ones, invitations, commiserations, congratulations and heartfelt thanks. I’ve delivered people’s wage slips and winnings; maybe even a love letter or two, who knows?

I’ve seen many changes.

Probably the most significant change has been the move from Whitstable to Canterbury, which, some of you will remember, I campaigned against vigorously.

Associated with that has been the move from delivering from a bicycle to delivering from a van. This has completely changed the nature of the job.

We used to start early, now we start late. We used to be out on our own, now we work in pairs. We used to be able to walk or cycle to work, now we have to drive. Its like someone looked at all the parts of the job that used to give us pleasure and a sense of pride and decided that those were the very things that needed getting rid of.

The atmosphere in the Canterbury office has been toxic at times. Nothing like the old Whitstable office, which used to be fun. Many old posties have left as a consequence.

The other great change has been the privatisation of the Royal Mail; although, I have to say, this hasn’t affected the job in any material way.

We still push letters through letter boxes. We still walk up and down garden paths; the difference being that these days the profits go to private institutions instead of back into the service as they used to.

Of course, if you remember, the ostensible reason the company was privatised was that letter volumes were down due to the fact that we all use emails and texts these days.

What no one predicted at the time was that the same technology which dispensed with the need for envelopes and stamps, also allowed us to do our shopping on-line, which has lead to a significant growth in the volume of packets.

In fact the Royal Mail has seen a healthy increase in profits since privatisation, and not because of anything the private owners have done – not because of efficiency savings or modernisation, most of which was done previously at public expense – merely as a natural by-product of new technology.

As for the future: who knows? It’s not my concern any more.

So that’s me: signing off as a postman for the very last time. I do hope to be delivering these words of wit and wisdom however, via your newspaper, or on the internet, for some time to come.

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From The Whitstable Gazette 14/06/18

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

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Whitstable History: the Post Office inside St Peter’s Church, Sydenham Street, Whitstable

A fond farewell as post office saga goes full circle

As one Facebook post put it: it’s the end of an era.

This was under a picture of a queue lined up outside the post office modules in St Peter’s Church, Sydenham Street.

Well it wasn’t really an “era” as such, since it only lasted fourteen months, but it was a memorable period for all that.

I mean: how many post offices do you know on the inside of old Victorian brick-built churches such as this? I imagine there can’t be that many.

I will miss it. It became an integral part of my life for a while, not least because I was the postman there. Still am, but I won’t be delivering Local Collect and Special Delivery packages to the church any more.

Nor will I be issuing a hearty good morning to the staff while jumping the queue and going straight to the counter: my privilege as the designated postal worker.

It was quite bizarre in there. I’ve never been a fan of Christian iconography, particularly of the grim 19th century variety, so it was always a relief to get to the counter to see the image of Ganesha, the colourful Hindu elephant-headed god, in the post office: obviously the proprietor’s personal deity.

But the church was warm and dry compared to the Portacabin in Gladstone Road it replaced, so I guess we shouldn’t moan.

According to Wikipedia, Ganesha is the patron of letters and learning and the remover of obstacles, so a particularly apt figure to oversee to proceedings at a post office, albeit a temporary one.

One thing it made clear was how under used some of these old church buildings are. Good on Simon Tillotson for making it available as a home for the post office, but it makes you wonder what other community needs the building might serve in future.

The new post office inside the Co-op on Cromwell Road is now open, two counters to serve the whole of Whitstable, on the site of the old Royal Mail delivery office.

Things have come full circle. People will be popping in to collect their packages again, as they did for many years, on almost exactly the same spot.

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From The Whitstable Gazette 22/02/18

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

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Whitstable People: Ritchie Harnett

House prices are driving people away.

People on Island Wall, Nelson Road and the adjoining streets, will have noticed that they have a new postman.

This is because their old postman, Ritchie Harnett, has moved to Grimsby.

There’s been a lot of talk about house prices in the paper recently. Ritchie’s move is the perfect illustration of that.

He has a growing family to care for and needed more space. He simply couldn’t afford to get a bigger house in the town on his income.

His family have lived in Whitstable for generations. He was born and brought up here. He went to school here. His relatives are here. His roots are here. Everything he has ever known is in this town.

On the other hand, most of his contemporaries have long since moved away. They too, like him, couldn’t afford to live in Whitstable any longer.

It’s a five hour drive from Whitstable to Grimsby, which means it will be very difficult for his Mum and Dad to get to see their grandkids.

On the plus side: the house he has brought up there is four times the size of the one he lived in in Whitstable, with a garden five times the size. He says his new kitchen is the size of the ground floor of his old house.

Also, his new office is within walking distance of his house, unlike the Whitstable office, which is eight miles away.

He probably never would have wanted to move had the delivery office not been shifted to Canterbury.

Ritchie was very popular with his customers. I spoke to one of them who told me they trusted him implicitly. There was even a petition going around trying to persuade him to stay.

Let me assure them: their new postman is just as trustworthy and reliable, just as honest as Ritchie, and will serve them just as well.

Nevertheless it is a measure of everything that is wrong in this world that postal workers and other people doing essential jobs, such as Ritchie, can no longer afford to live in the towns where they were brought up.

There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in the UK, something which needs to be urgently addressed.

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From The Whitstable Gazette 10/08/17

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

website: kentishgazette.co.uk

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