Postie Alan Green joked with his regular customers that he was the Royal Mail’s ‘poster boy’ when The Chronicle joined him for a feature about the Christmas post.
Alan is one of 235 operational postal grades, a postman in old language, based at Chester Delivery Office, whose bags are currently bulging thanks to festive cards and parcels. Last year, across the UK as a whole the Royal Mail handled 115m parcels in the month of December – peaking at more than 10m on the busiest day.
These days Alan, who has worked for the Royal Mail for 30 years, delivers in the city centre using a contraption on wheels that he affectionately refers to as “Dolly the trolley’. The days of postal workers getting bad backs due to humping around heavy sacks are long gone thanks to strict health and safety rules.
Alan, 47, who lives in Saltney with wife Cathy and their sons Michael, 16, and Thomas, 15, enjoys the interaction with the public even if he isn’t always the most welcome sight.
“The manager of the convenience store in Brook Street used to call me ‘Bill’ because that’s all I ever brought him,” said Alan, who wears shorts on his round, even in the depths of December, and only owns two pairs of trousers.
“I have a white pair for weddings and a dark pair for funerals.”
When The Chronicle joined Alan on his Christmas round, he attracted friendly heckling from customers puzzled to see him being followed by a photographer and a journalist wearing high vis Royal Mail orange jackets. ”Oi postie! Are you being followed today?”
“I’m being followed by the press,” he responded, close to the Nice ‘n’ Naughty shop, where he also delivers.
“My youngest lad, who goes to St David’s High School, told his mates ‘My dad goes in Nice ‘n’ Naughty every day’ without telling them I’m a postman.”
Alan followed in the footsteps of his late father Reginald who was a postman for more than 39 years and even worked out of the same office as him.
“It was a case of, if it’s good enough for my dad, it’s good enough for me,” said Alan, a keen cyclist, like his son Thomas, who said the camaraderie at the office was a plus point. “We all work together. We look after each other.”
The Chester Mail Centre, on Chester West Employment Park, which sorts the mail for Chester, North Wales and Wirral, has taken on extra staff to deal with the Christmas rush. And the delivery office in Station Road, which primarily deals with ensuring Chester post completes the final mile of its journey, is also geared up to coping with the avalanche of extra cards and parcels.
Scanners read even hand-written addresses to help sort the mail into the order in which it will be delivered, unless it is ‘spider writing,’ jokes delivery officer manager Richard Thomas. He said there was no ‘them and us’ at the delivery office in 2014. “We understand what working together means,” added Richard, who has seen many changes during his 25 years in the business, including the part-privatisation of the company. Working in such a commercially tough environment must be hard but he accepts ‘competition is good’.
Lee Fennell, assistant delivery office manager, said the traditional Christmas card was surviving the online age and the rumoured death of snail-mail had been ‘greatly exaggerated’ despite the advent of email.
“It’s probably opened up a whole new market, explained Lee, who pointed to the growth of eBay. “Parcels are a major part of our business and will be a major part of what we hope will be a successful future.”
Even with all the technology at their disposal, it’s nice to know the human touch is still part and parcel (pardon the pun) of what they do.
“We’ve got an item we are chasing round the building. It’s simply addressed to ‘The Rectory, Chester’ and we are trying to find where it is,” added Lee, who has worked for Royal Mail for 20 years.
Royal Mail’s last recommended posting dates for the UK are: Saturday December 20 - First Class, Thursday, December 18 - Second Class and Monday December 22 - Special Delivery Guaranteed. For further information, visit: www.royalmail.com/greetings.