A sad sign of tough times in rural England . . .
For the past 15 years, when I needed to send a parcel, buy stamps, get some cash or pick up a prescription, I have driven to the next small village – just over the gently rolling hills and down into the next valley – to this shop and Post Office.
Over that time there have been three owners – the first I remember was a gently spoken gentleman who eventually went to follow his love of music as an organist/choirmaster after a particularly horrid armed raid (who can blame him); then a sweet lady and her eccentric husband complete with collections of wartime memorabilia, vintage biscuit tins and the train set that was displayed in the window; and finally a young woman who really really wanted to make a success of her local shop. She dusted down the shelves and changed things around, introduced grocery deliveries and veg boxes; but she kept the stools near the counter for elderly residents to sit down and have a gossip or drink a mug of tea.
Sadly it just wasn't enough. I could tell she'd lost heart after Christmas, the through-road had been closed for 10 weeks for the water main to be replaced - no-one could just drop in on their way to or from work, it was the final nail in the coffin.
Today I posted a package to a customer in the US, for me it was probably my final visit – on Friday the post-mistress will lock the door for the very last time.
So next time I need to post a parcel, I will drive in the opposite direction down to the town. In truth the distance from my studio may just be slightly shorter, but I will miss the chatter and local gossip – the two part time shop assistants had been serving in the Post Office for all the years I have used it, so I know them quite well. It was the sort of place where you could ask advice if you had a bee swarm (true story) or go in wearing your messiest gardening clothes and not look out of place. Now I'll have to park in the supermarket car park, walk down to the High Street to the big main Post Office and join the queue for "cashier number ..."
. . . and I'll have to check I haven't got ink or mud smudges on my face before I go!