Monday, 15 July 2013

Mail at a Snail's Pace or Time was

Trawling through the BBC website this morning I read an article on the closure of India's telegram service.  It started in 1851 and survived until last Sunday which was the last day a telegram was delivered in the country.
This got me thinking (yes, I do sometimes lol) that a lot of romance has gone forever out of everyday life.

Regular readers will know that I am a voracious reader.  One of my favourite authors is Somerset Maugham, in particular his volumes of short stories set in the outposts of the Far East where those in the British colonial service spent their days. Maugham's stories are fascinating for the atmosphere of heat, sweat and isolation which they impart.  It is another world, when life was slow, a world now gone forever.  I am sure life was tough and people had to make the most of it (not so different from today, really, is it?).  It was far from romantic in real life, and no, I am not in favour of colonialism but I am interested in people.  How did these people cope? Maugham, who travelled extensively, gives us an insight into their lives.  "The Club" was the centre piece of their lives.  Everyone for miles around visited it and played bridge, danced or simply chatted.    New arrivals brought English newspapers often several weeks or even months old but still read with interest.  Visitors showed up at distant outposts on the turgid rivers of Burma bringing with them the so-called "book bag", a treasure trove for the isolated District Officer in his lonely jungle home.  And the dream of returning to England kept them all going although the reality was that many who had spent most of their lives in service in the harsh climes of the Far East could not settle down in what to them had become an alien country.  But that's another story.

Travelling meant getting on board a ship and spending weeks on your journey. When you embarked you boarded a train to your next destination.  Travelling meant having your mail forwarded to the poste restante service of one of the old-established travel agencies.  Imagine the anticipation as you collected the little bundle of envelopes waiting for you.  There was time to order afternoon tea or coffee and settle down to read the news from friends and loved ones and discuss it all over a leisurely dinner with fellow travellers.

Our habit of racing through text messages or emails or trawling our Twitter account is far more stressful and far less fun in my opinion. Sure, there are times when instant communication is a blessing.  I'm not knocking progress.  I just feel that we've lost a bit of romance in our lives, somehow, and the cessation of the India telegram service brought this home to me this week.

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