With post so disrupted in England at the moment, I thought you might like to hear how it works here in rural Spain. When we first came to live in the village about ten years ago, just for a few months each winter in those days, we waited weeks for our post to arrive and received not a scrap. We asked friends in the UK to send us letters to test it, but nothing came. And then someone pointed out that we hadn’t introduced ourselves to the postman. Ah, we thought, this must be a quaint Spanish custom. So along we went to do just that and Pedro declared himself delighted to meet us, shook our hands and welcomed us to his village before handing us a huge bundle of our mail which he’d been saving for us. It turned out that he was dyslexic and couldn’t read, but once he’d connected your written name with your face, that was fine. We never had any more delays after that.
Fortunately now I can send the manuscript by email, but back then getting the manuscript to the publisher was fraught with unexpected difficulties. Thinking to speed things along I took my substantial manuscript to a much larger post office in the nearest town and asked that it be sent Urgente. The man behind the counter weighed my parcel and was appalled. He took great pains to explain how much such a transaction would cost. Not only an arm and a leg, but more euros than I could possibly imagine. I kept insisting that was fine. It had to be in London by Friday. Unconvinced that this little English lady understood a word of what he was saying, he called upon the entire assembly of customers gathered in the Post Office to help him, found someone who could speak English and had them explain to me exactly what I was letting myself in for. I agreed, and accepted the terms. It must be there by Friday, I said. In five days. It took three weeks. Next time I sent it by ordinary post and it was in London in 3 days.
Now our postal service is generally quite good, you can send something addressed to me with no house number or street name but just the village, and I’ll get it. Isobel, our post lady, knows who we all are. She doesn’t deliver, unless your house is in the village. Ours is on the hill just beyond so we have to collect our post, taking turns with our neighbours. Very communal. Of course, if her son Danuelle is sick, then the post office is closed and we couldn’t collect it anyway. Fortunately he’s a healthy child. When he was small he would happily eat his morning yoghurt sitting on the weigh scales, although it was a nuisance for him if someone wanted to send a parcel. And if Isabel is having a busy time, such as Christmas, one or two stalwarts get stuck in and help her to sort and deliver them. Very much a community affair. Our only problem is that the PO is open for only a short time each day, and not on fiesta’s or bank holidays, of which there are any number. But you can’t have everything, and patience is essential. As no doubt it is in England too at the moment.