Many Victorians enjoyed three postal deliveries a day - Breakfast, lunch and teatime. In most towns and cities it was possible to post a letter in the morning and receive a reply by teatime, or even return of post! Although telegrams caused a stir when they arrived, they were prohibitively expensive for all but emergency or overseas communiques. It was the Royal Mail's Post Office which offered the real Victorian 'internet' for the masses with its famous nationwide Penny Black stamp for all letters.
Over a century later, I was a huge devotee of letter writing and really enjoyed both sending and receiving them - until the rot of e-mail came along and infected me too, reducing my postal output to Christmas cards and the odd scribbled postcard.
Now, thanks in part to my thoughtlessness, our Post Office is at risk with branches closing weekly, many sorting offices closed or inefficiently amalgamated between cities and towns many miles from each other, and the Post Office struggles to deliver post to our homes even once a day, often long after the occupants have left for work and given up waiting for that important letter or cheque to be delivered.
Yet I have found from recent job applications that I receive far greater response from 'snail mail' applications than electronic ones. Has it really become so unusual to receive land mail and so common to be deluged by e-mail that more notice is now paid once more to the three-dimensional variety? And while I am always careful to type a relevant subject heading in any e-mail heading box, I can imagine that an awful lot of e-mails end up in people's Junk boxes, though of course there are those who conveniently pretend they have never received a message.
When not extolling the benefits of snail mail to my fellow unemployed, I have just seen another and greater glimmer of hope for the future of our Post Office. Namely that when all e-mails and mobile phone calls are intercepted (ok, stored for use) by our government, people will revert to writing letters in their droves as the only private means of communicating over distance. Certainly this move to spy on us all (just in case we develop some bizarre yen to take up a new career as terrorists) is bound to provoke a mass public reaction, and this would be the obvious one.
I have also, spurred by economic necessity, reverted to using my local Library a great deal more lately rather than buying books (another public service under increasing threat). 'Use it or lose it', as they say.
Ironic though that the Victorians had a better postal service than us. And a more extensive and reliable rail network. Not to mention nicer architecture. Some 'progress' would appear to be going in a backwards direction...