No leaflets. No circulars. No menus. Addressed letters only. Recycle. No junk mail.
The letterboxes and front doors of SW4 are relentlessly negative, regardless of the pansy-lined path, the potted azalea or the mat marked ‘Welcome’. They carry messages which are almost always admonitory, faintly indignant-sounding. Psychological barriers, metaphorical moats, to defend that oblong aperture, access through which may be necessary, but is to be guarded at the cost of being positive. Any unsolicited delivery is to be deterred.
Anyone who delivers anything, solicited or not, will be familiar with these messages.
My familiarity with them grew recently when delivering leaflets, unsolicited, in my local area.
My first reaction was to try not so much to post the leaflets as to sneak them past the mute sentinels. Look both ways before pushing open the gate. Check out the type of letter box, before slipping the leaflet through as quickly as possible and beating a rapid retreat down the path. I learned to identify the ‘impossible letter box’ before I opened the gate and I rarely bothered to try to drop a leaflet where the letter box was of sprung closed variety. A type of letter box designed, presumably, to illicit exactly that reaction. Trickier to identify was the heavily brush-lined letter box, through which it was difficult to pushed one page of folded paper.
Though this fly-by-night approach meant that I missed the satisfying swoosh of a leaflet hitting a hard floor. Letter box cages also meant one didn’t hear this happy sound. I did not, luckily, encounter any dogs.
I found myself preparing a little explanation if anyone actually opened their door as I posted my leaflet. And I thought I’d got this covered – I had placed a notice on my local neighbourhood web-site explaining that local folk would be delivering leaflets about the Clapham Book Festival and asking people to read them, not consign them automatically to the recycling bin. ‘Oh,’ I would say, all disingenuous, to an irate householder in my head. ‘It’s a community leaflet. We let people know they were coming. Did you see it on the web-site?’
I cannot remember these notices being so common years ago. Are they a new phenomenon?
Caused, perhaps, by the changing nature of post? In the days when people wrote letters, what came through the letterbox could be entertaining and enjoyable. I mourn the passing of personal letter writing, such a source of pleasure both to send and receive and, for historians and biographers, an invaluable resource. What will the biographers of future years do? Track down a hard drive, seek out a server?
What arrived on the door mat could announce good news – an invitation to a social occasion, a premium bond win. The post was, and often still is, the conduit for a formal announcement, an engagement, a birth, a death, although even that is being done via e-mail these days. As party to the organisation of two funerals within the last five months, I have been perplexed by the increasing number of ways in which a death and funeral can be announced (one undertaker included Social Media Notification in his portfolio of services ).
Or maybe it was ever thus and I just didn’t look at peoples’ letterboxes.