Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Village Postal Service

When we moved to France our house had been empty for a while and the previous owners had boarded up the letter box so as not to have it overflowing with the weekly 'pub' from the supermarkets detailing their latest offers. The village post lady at the time was undeterred by this and quickly deduced from the name on our mail that we were English so delivered the post to the closest English neighbour in the village, until she was able to speak to us herself. She was always smiling and cheerful and we were happy to offer her a punnet or two of cherries each summer and buy her calendar each Christmas. It may not have been a standard service, but she was always happy to collect post from the house and take it back to the sorting office. If you hadn't got a stamp she would either sell you one, or take the money, weigh the letter and return with your change the next day. Then she retired.

french village diaries La Poste france life
This years Almanach du Facteur - so much more than just a calendar!

The new post lady wasn't quite as cheerful as the previous one had been, but I kept smiling and waving to her whenever our paths crossed. Her first Christmas was the point when our relationship took a little turn for the worse. She appeared in the kitchen, which as we have a dog who is not too keen on strangers was a brave, but foolish thing to do. As I am trying to keep the dog from attacking her she is offering me a choice from her selection of calendars. It is a very French thing to sell calendars each year and the firemen, postmen and kids from the local sports clubs are all queuing up in December selling their calendars to help raise some money. The post office calendars are often hung on to for many years and we always spot some very old ones for sale at the vide greniers (car boot sales). As with the previous post lady  I agreed to buy one, but when I opened my purse found all I had was 3€, which she took with a Gallic shrug and told me I could leave more in the letter box for her later. However as this was at the end of one of our bad years work wise I didn't leave her anymore, big mistake! That year our post deliveries were so erratic I even started noting when we got a delivery to see if there was a pattern. Oddly enough we rarely got mail on a Monday. We are the only permanent residents of a small impasse (dead end) so I guess we are a nuisance to her round. The second year I made sure I paid a bit more for the calendar, that I never use but stuff it in the kitchen drawer that is full of other things I don't use. Service did improve, but what really helped was the day she pointed at a letter with some pig themed stamps on them and asked if she could have them, I guess stamp collecting is as good a hobby as anything else for a postie. After this we were best of friends, nothing was too much trouble and all was well with our deliveries. Until she retired last week.

Here we go again, I'm thinking to myself. I have met Arthur, the new young postie, but I've also seen him speeding past the end of our little road more times than I've seen him turning in, although he did manage to deliver a bill this morning. We have already been warned that there are no guarantees that the extra services our village has come to accept as normal over the years will continue with the new 'facteur'. In addition to collecting our outgoing mail it was not uncommon to see the post van parked up outside the houses of some of the older residents of the village, where in winter I often saw them bringing in firewood from the outhouses and no doubt they shared some gossip and a petit pause de café. I guess only time, and calendar sales figures, will tell what sort of postie Arthur will become. At least we are lucky to have a 'Point Poste' at the village boulangerie where we can buy stamps, send and receive parcel deliveries and post our letters at the same time as buying a croissant. We are lucky, not all villages have these services.