The last post for Dolly

PUBLISHED: 11:27 02 November 2007 | UPDATED: 23:08 28 May 2010

Dolly knew exactly how to run a post office. She d also run the village telephone exchange when it was a matter of just picking up your phone and asking to be put through to Mrs Smith. Dolly also sold fresh boiled beetroot. I still expect every post offic

Dolly knew exactly how to run a post office. She'd also run the village telephone exchange when it was a matter of just picking up your phone and asking to be put through to Mrs Smith.

Dolly also sold fresh boiled beetroot. I still expect every post office to smell of beet that's boiled dry.

She was post-mistress in the Norfolk village where I lived for 20 years.

Thinking of her and one or two like her makes me think that post offices wouldn't be closing and we wouldn't have postal strikes if the Royal Mail and the Post Office were run by women.

Women like Ethel. She'd been a part time post woman in the Fens for several years. She helped out during the Christmas rush and when the regular postman was ill.

This was in the days when few women did the job but, as Ethel said, "You don't need no muscle. You just pedal your bike."

When the postman gave up, she got the job full-time. Except that they then called her an auxiliary post woman which meant they didn't have to pay her as much as a man.

"It don't seem that fair," she said, "but there's not a lot of jobs round here, except on the land."

They wouldn't let her join the union, either. "You're only an auxiliary," they argued. Even then, all she said was, "Funny but there it is."

The whole village trusted Ethel. She never minded putting a bag of potatoes in the carrier on the front of her bike and dropping them off at your friend's.

She never gossiped about what was in the mail - even when the vicar had some "artistic" magazines delivered in envelopes that had got torn.

Nowadays, it's only when we have to make do without a

delivery or when a post office is threatened with closure that we realise how much we need Ethel and Dolly's successors - and today's postal workers deserve better pay than they ever got for what is still a precious public service.

Mind you, Dolly got a nice send-off.

She shut her post office one Thursday afternoon and didn't open it next morning.

She'd turned the beetroot off and then died peacefully in her armchair.

Her brother scattered her ashes on the village green and the children stopped playing on it for a couple of hours as a mark of respect.

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