Yesterday was the first day I have ever had off work because of the weather. I’ve had to take shelter in a downpour or a hail storm before. I’ve trudged through the rain while icy winds blew off the sea. I’ve worked in the frost and the rain and in fog and in heat. Once I was delivering along a terrace where there was a torrent of water pouring from a leaky gutter. I was avoiding it as best I could, but a sudden gust of wind took hold of it and directed it down the back of my neck while I was stuck at a letter box. I went back to the office sodden to my socks, but I didn’t take a day off because of it.
The day before yesterday I was out. I didn’t quite do all of my round. I missed out the severe hills, and the long, treacherous, icy garden paths: but I did at least seven-eighths of it. I walked most of the way, pushing the bike and using it as a trolley rather than riding it. Occasionally I’d hoik the bag on to my shoulders and leave the bike, crunching through the snow in my walking boots.
We posties are used to the weather. We know how to dress for it. I had on at least four layers, and a woolly hat and two pairs of gloves: a fingerless pair, with an ordinary pair over the top. You need the fingerless gloves to pick through the bundle. Every so often the cold would bite and my fingers would stop working. Then I would have to stop to warm my hands under my armpits.
During the bad weather last winter I would do half my round one day, half the next. That way everyone was getting their mail at least every other day. I was on a different round then, much nearer to the office, so I knew I could walk most of it. On the first day it hit we were given the option to take the day off, and told to do our own risk assessments. That meant that if we had an accident it would be our own fault.
Some of the guys had decided to take the day off and were out in the yard throwing snowballs. I was loading up my bike ready to take it out when I caught the manager’s eye. He had a snowball in his hand. He paused, and looked at the snowball as if was something he had picked up by mistake. Then he dropped it and went back to his office.
Yesterday, however, we weren’t given the option to do our own risk assessments. I made it into work, cutting a rut through the snow on my bike, but when I got there, there weren’t any letters to deliver. The mail van hadn’t arrived and we were told the network had failed. This is the first time I’ve known the whole network to go down. My mate, who’s been in the job for longer than me, said it was the first time in 42 years that he hadn’t gone out on delivery.