This is part of a series of articles written by London Blue Badge Tourist Guides who used to be key workers in our capital city. First up is Neil Parker, who worked for 30 years as a postman before becoming a tourist guide.
London Blue Badge Tourist Guide Neil Parker.
I qualified as a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide in 2013 and now, as my mates from the post would say, ‘I’m paid to be me!’ At least I was until March 2020 when Covid-19 arrived. This got me thinking, what was life like for my mates in the post? So, after it reopened, I went to the pub to find out.
Very quickly I found that they were experiencing ‘Christmas’ every day. It was not the number of letters but the number of parcels. People have gone on-line mad, which means for postal workers that the job overnight got much more physical. Initially, the increase in items was for the obvious: jigsaws, then the not so obvious: sex toys.
After that, endless clothes and shoes, which baffled them as no one was going out anymore. Now it’s not only the postal workers who are experiencing change but the buildings they worked in. Most delivery offices are small, making social distancing difficult at the best of times. Imagine the influx of parcels and packages in all shapes and sizes – and something had to give.
Many of my mates found themselves having to switch to night work to thin out the numbers in the depot. I asked them how they found it being out delivering. Initially quite lonely, as no one else was on the streets, but for those who drove to deliver suddenly the lack of traffic made a huge difference. They found that finally, they could meet the productivity targets, something impossible in regular London traffic.
Another plus was the response from the public. Some found sweets and cold drinks left out for them on the doorsteps and ‘Thank You’ notes from small children displayed in windows. In my old district, SW17, Poundland sent free Easter eggs for the Posties. Another plus was the local council gave postal workers free parking, meaning they could get to work with less risk to their health.
Best of all, for the first time in a generation people asked their names. Now it felt like Christmas when this started in March and that has not gone away with the shops reopening. So, spare a thought for your local postman/woman this December when they have the real Christmas post to deal with as well.