Never mind the new rules on confetti outside church – who knew that these days the bride and groom are expected to supply matching biodegradable packets themselves to create an Instagram-worthy ‘shower’? Without the ever-cheerful ladies who run our local Worsbrough branch, I swear this wedding would not have happened.
Quite simply my local post office has saved me so much time. It’s where I go to pick up newspapers and magazines for a start. Since I told them I write for The Yorkshire Post, they always have a cheery word to say about my latest column. Given that in my tatty work-from-home scruffs I look nothing like my tidy byline picture, I always find this very kind.
Very importantly, the post office is the place where I have diligently paid any spare cash into our savings account for months; the banking facility is so much easier than driving to town and then either shelling out to park or negotiating the undesirables who hang about near my bank.
Then there are all those essential bits and pieces. A wedding is lovely, but real life does go on. I’m always running out of envelopes and forgetting people’s birthdays. Then there are happy occasions such as the birth of a baby. And sad ones, too. Our post office stocks such a decent range of cards that I rarely go anywhere else these days.
And of course, it’s where I post letters and parcels. In a world so obsessed with digital communication and email exchanges, there is something so rooted and comforting about knowing that your important letter or special gift has been posted with care.
I don’t ever want my own to join the 43 post office branches in Yorkshire which closed between 2013 and 2018. Although Post Office Ltd stresses that there are 950 branches still open here, it is impossible to ignore the fact that these closures included 33 in rural locations.
At about three miles from the town centre, we’re probably what you would call ‘semi-rural’. Still, I know from the people I see using our branch what a lifeline it is, especially for the elderly, disabled and parents with young children.
York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who campaigns to keep post offices accessible, calls them “a vital public service” and she’s right. “It isn’t just about emotional attachment,” she says. “If they go in inaccessible locations [such as high street newsagent WH Smith and supermarkets], putting business at more risk... then the whole future model of the Post Office is in decline and it’s not building sustainability.”
Future-proofing is a really important point. For too long now, post offices have been regarded as a kind of anachronistic hang-over from the days when wedding greetings from far away were delivered by telegram, not text message.
Everyone involved, from Royal Mail leaders and Ministers to branch staff, has struggled to try and work out what kind of service they should provide. Yet I’d argue that actually the post office should be a role model for retail businesses which are struggling. The flexibility, determination and can-do attitude of the people who run branches could point the way and show the rest of the high street (I use that term loosely) how it should evolve to become sustainable itself.
After all, a successful post office is a perfect retail microcosm; not only earning its keep, but offering both goods and services to customers. If I didn’t work from home, I could even arrange for my internet shopping to be delivered direct to branch for safe-keeping. How neat is that? No doubt there would be obstacles along the way, but there is potential for the seamless blending of old and new, always putting the customer first.
This will require some huge leaps of faith; for example, although 87 per cent of UK retail purchases are now made online, according to the Royal Mail’s Delivery Matters report, there are many people who still find the prospect daunting.
Like my mother, for instance, who bemoans the disappearance of a decent haberdashery in town, and is amazed to learn that pretty much anything – from hooks and eyes to whole wedding dresses – can be ordered online.
But meanwhile what about that confetti? If you’re heading to a wedding yourself this weekend, and feel the need to do the quaint old-fashioned thing and buy a box yourself, stop off at the nearest post office. If it’s anything like mine, you’ll find a first class service.