I’ve been sticking things through letterboxes for nearly 70 years now - newspapers mainly but almost anything that could be stuck through that hole in the door - political pamphlets, fliers for residents’ associations and youth organisations, bills from local grocers and adverts for dances in church halls and children’s parties. I can remember newspapers with headlines announcing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the death of Buddy Holly and the first appearance of Beatlemania. I’ve walked up paths to farm worker’s cottages, traveller caravans and the homes of famous people like Barbara Cartland, the romantic novelist and Viscount Trenchard. I’ve even delivered newspapers to the country estate of a relative of the old Queen Mother. They didn’t have a letterbox. I simply gave the newspapers to the butler who carefully ironed them before passing them on to the lord and ladyship. This was to remove any excess ink from the paper, ensuring clean hands for the nobility.
How to Iron a Newspaper
- Cover a wooden table with baize or felt.
- Lay a sheet of brown paper on the table and place the first sheet of the newspaper on top of it.
- Lay another sheet of brown paper on top of the newspaper and carefully press the assembly with a warm iron.
- Repeat the process until all sheets of the journal have been pressed - then reassemble the newspaper.
My latest update on local letterboxes came last week delivering pamphlets on the forthcoming London Mayoral Elections. Some of the older terraced houses in our neighbourhood still have their Victorian letterboxes, both vertical and horizontal. Although they are attractive, they are only big enough to receive a short note from the Crimea. Anything larger like a newspaper or lengthy directive from HMRC gets dumped on the doorstep which is probably the best place for a lengthy directive from the HMRC. My own personal favourite letterbox is what you might describe as a ‘12 x 3-inch Horizontal Inset’. This simple flap set into the door opens by pushing the newspaper against it, although some households make the task less easy by placing another metal flap inside the door and a spring to keep the outer flap closed. In another version, the exterior flap is hinged outside of the door requiring the postie or newspaper boy or girl to raise the flap with one hand while trying to stuff the delivery through the door with the other. A trained octopus would be useful in these circumstances.
The entire process of delivery moves on from ‘difficult’, through ‘awkward’ to ‘murderous’ with the introduction over the last few decades of the ‘letterbox brush’ - that evil bank of bristles that some misguided people like to screw at the back of their letterboxes to allegedly prevent cold air entering the house. Manufacturers of this ghastly piece of medieval torture equipment claim that it is still possible for letters to be delivered through the door easily, but without a nasty draft. This is not true. Apart from the difficulty of shoving a letter or flyer through this domestic version of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, there is also the real risk of catching your hand in it, particularly if you’re wearing a ring. At this juncture two points come to mind:
- The designer of the letterbox brush did not consider that newspapers and the like might have to be pushed through it.
- The homeowner doesn’t actually want to receive letters or newspapers.
If you have this abomination inside your own front door you will make many friends amongst the young people and OAPs who deliver your newspapers, the posties who bring your mail and the local socially-minded volunteers who keep your up to date with fliers promoting community affairs by removing the brushes immediately and delivering them to their true destination - the dustbin. Even the junk mailers will thank you.
One fellow who probably doesn’t have to worry too much these days about malevolent letterboxes is Airdrie postman Nathan Evans. In 2020 he recorded ‘Wellerman’ a song about the supply ships operating out of New Zealand and owned by the Weller Brothers. The song tells of deliveries of ‘sugar and tea and rum’ to hard-pressed whalers in the southern oceans. Nathan’s recording became an unlikely viral hit on the social media site TikTok.
– from Martyn Day