Our tribe of regular and seasonal home delivery drivers have given great service this winter. Frenetic peak activity over the Christmas and new year holiday period saw them driving even longer hours over vast routes, bounded by our regional market town to the south up to the wild Scottish border. It’s a mix of high open fells, steep valleys and dense coniferous forest with many a rough and ready off road track leading to isolated hidden properties. One of the drivers told me he works to a broad figure of eight, enabling return visits that same day to customers if called for. Running against the clock and wedded to their Satnavs they curse the US developed GPS system many have to use, which takes no account of localised UK geography. Another tells me he’ll make as many of the easier in by drops to villages first thing in the short day, leaving more flexitime to crack the hard to access places out by.
The regular Royal Mail drivers know their large rural runs inside out of course. Where to safely leave the stuff that won’t go through the letterbox, which place harbours the pathological ankle nipping pooch; where the potholes lurk or lanes where ice never melts, and so on. Since privitisation these stoical souls have been left more exposed and pressurised than ever in the name of efficiency, with vans that aren’t always up to the rigours of rugged rural rounds. In recent periods of snowfall and sub zero temperatures we’ve clocked a van unable to get up a sloping tarmac drive. Covid has taken its toll too and under-staffing has been an issue. We all love our posties though, as they often make for an eyes and ears social service when out in the sticks. For many isolated and potentially vulnerable individuals he or she may be the only person they meet for days. One welcome advance the Royal Mail has made in recent times is the picking up of post when delivering. That’s proved particularly useful, especially during lockdown.
Other deliveries are nature’s own. Over the years we’ve had some puzzling drops. An unmarked recently deceased young rabbit, still soft to the touch, inside the east end field gate; an open mouthed weasel, its lithe little body showing puncture or possibly claw marks, in the west end yard; the headless lower half of a mature salmon in the back garden. The latter was not as surprising as it sounds. This early morning find was in the wake of autumn spawning in the big river, three miles distant. The bodies of spent mature salmon often wash up and are carried off by all manner of birds and beasts. We may have accidentally interrupted such a predator about their work. Our beloved old, but still fiercely active, cat Pip was alive then, so she may well have dragged corpses found elsewhere back home…Who knows!