Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I've just picked up the mail, and it got me thinking.

Who'd be a postman? Sorry...I guess I should ask "Who'd be a post person?" 

Hang on. Isn't Postman Pat still going strong? Although, in order to be completely non-sexist I should make it clear that in principle he is going no stronger than a puppet Postwoman would go, as men do not necessarily possess greater physical strength than women, and in any case strength relates to other qualities such as mental and emotional resilience, where no gender bias exists.

Ain't modern life complicated? Hurrah!

Where was I...yes, who'd be a postie?

Every morning our letter box clatters with half a dozen items flopping on the mat. This morning was about typical. Two letters, one from the building society about balance transfer deals, one from a random outfit telling us we might be owed PPI. Three glossy high colour leaflets advertising a Pizza restaurant and another from our local Homebase-type warehouse and another one I didn't even bother to look at. And two letters for addressed to former foster placements of ours. I get about half a dozen a week; letters addressed to children or young adults who are long gone from here. They are official looking letters written and mail-merged by machines I'm guessing. I write the child's re-location address on each of them and put them back in the post. I don't know who they are from because I don't open them. You hope the child or their parents or new carers or whoever they are with now might think to tell the letter writers of the child's new address, but it doesn't seem to happen.

Here's something interesting about what is otherwise a standard moan: 

I find that foster children always express a wish that someone would write to them. One child we had begged us to adopt a snow leopard at £2 a month, which we didn't do because I'm a bit sceptical about all that. Turned out the child's slightly animal "loving" mother (3 cats 2 dogs several rabbits in the garden and a guinea pig in the unused bath) had done the same. What the child liked was the monthly "letter" telling the adopter what their leopard's latest news was.

Got me wondering if there was room in the world for "Pen Pals for Looked Afters"? People who had passed some sort of course who could write letters to a foster child which supported the carer but also re-enforced the child's sense of self worth and individual needs.

Then again there's the worry when your foster child gets a letter or a package; whether you should open it for them. I had one child stay who asked me to do this because she didn't want any nasty surprises. Nobody should know your placement's foster address unless it's been cleared, but stuff happens. Blue Sky give you the guidelines on the mail thing (it's mainly a matter of age and agreement) and if in doubt it's the sort of thing you ring your Blue Sky social worker and ask.

We get the odd phone call too for ex-placements, mainly from debt collection agencies. Just hope our address isn't on any credit unworthiness database.

When I say "Who'd be a postie?" what I mean is that the job used to be a cherished role in society, where everyone knew their postie and he (for it only ever used to be a "he") only delivered letters from distant friends and relatives.

I started to turn against mail when I noticed that banks have a tactic of posting you a sniffy letter that you're overdrawn on a Friday afternoon so it arrives on a Saturday which meant you had a whole weekend spoiled sweating and fuming.

So anyway, what I say to a foster child when they say they wish they'd get a letter is to write one, then they ought to get a reply. 

One child said she had no-one who'd write back. So I sat her down and got her to write one to me.

It was poignant. It started out painfully formal;

"Dear X

        I hope you are very well..." 

and fizzled out after a short list of "news" that included she watched Strictly Dancing last night

        "I can't think of anything else to say.

                                 yours sincerely"

The fact was that she had a great deal to tell someone, but didn't know how, definitely not in a letter.

I wrote a reply, but never got a another letter from her, even though I asked her to write again. Novelty gone.

I wish the writers of circulars and unwanted letters would take a leaf out of her book...


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