Postmen, and women, are arguably the unsung heroes of the UK. From birthday cards to love letters, they are the thankless middle men between our heartfelt words and loved ones living miles away.
And while they still have to deliver a dreaded bill along the way, unless you’ve gone paperless, the local postie is generally a welcome sight. So what is it really like being a Royal Mail postman? Have you ever wondered how many miles you have to trek or the shocking encounters they experience on doorsteps across Birmingham?
Tony Buckley, 46, has been attending to our letterboxes for 30 years. Based in Hall Green but working in Shirley, the humble deliveryman has sung happy birthday at the door while dropping off cards, delivered letters from the late Queen Elizabeth and even had colleagues threatened when a knife was held to their throat.
He still argues the people are what keep him going, especially during a gruelling lockdown where workers functioned more like soldiers at war. Tony lifts the lid on why he and his fellow posties do more than just pick up a bag and deliver.
So what are the craziest things Tony’s seen on the job? He said: “People tend to lock themselves out and ask me to help them. During lockdown someone asked me to sing happy birthday at the door for their relatives.
“I got a letter from the West Midlands Service Delivery Leader congratulating me for that. One colleague helped an elderly man who fell over outside, he put a blanket over him and took him inside, waiting until the ambulance came.
“I miss sending letters from the Queen, that made me proud. It’s very sad I can’t do it anymore.”
Tony is referring to the tradition of the late Queen Elizabeth II sending people congratulatory cards for special birthdays and anniversaries.
Working five days a week, walking 11 miles and 23,000 steps (according to his Fitbit) Tony got got into the job at 17 through his father. His life now is a far cry from delivering letters from his bicycle.
Does the job ever get dangerous? He said: “In the past people would get angry waiting for letters, they’d say ‘where is it?’ and I say ‘I can only deliver what I can’. One colleague had a knife held to his throat, he got out fine and the police were called.
“We are always told just let them have their mail and contact Royal Mail with any emergencies. I feel fairly safe.
“In general I am ok with dogs and a few times they go for me to tug on my trousers. I even saw horses once at a home. We laugh it off, although some postmen get chunks bitten out of their legs.”
Despite tricky encounters Tony still says the people make the job worth it. He said: “I have done this for so many years and three quarters of customers I know on first name terms.
“They praise us for how amazing we were during lockdown, it makes you tear up. I get invited in for tea and sometimes used to go in, elderly people need company.
“I try to do the best for them. If someone says they are waiting for something important, I try to get it done for them.
“During Covid people were posting more and ordering online. It was really busy but we had to adapt, we joined together to get everything done. I felt uneasy as a number of staff caught Covid, some twice, it was really difficult. We had scattered shifts.
“People think we just walk to the office, pick up a bag and deliver. They don’t realise we sort through so much mail and make sure that mail is secure.”
The postman feels so passionate about his work he took part in the recent Royal Mail strikes, arguing against growing pressures and increased hours. Taking part last Christmas, he argued striking made him feel helpless and lazy because he couldn’t deliver his services.
He hopes everyone can meet in the middle to resolve the crisis. Finally, what’s the most common thing postmen hear on a delivery? He revealed: “They always say ‘not bills again’ you just laugh it off.”
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