About the Book
In July 1969, while the Rolling Stones played a free concert in Hyde Park, Alan Johnson and his young family left West London to start a new life. The Britwell Estate in Slough, apparently notorious among the locals, in fact came as a blessed relief after the tensions of Notting Hill, and the local community welcomed them with open arms.
Alan had become a postman the previous year, and in order to support his growing family took on every bit of overtime he could, often working twelve-hour shifts six days a week. It was hard work, but not without its compensations – the crafty fag snatched in a country lane, the farmer’s wife offering a hearty breakfast and even the mysterious lady on Glebe Road who appeared daily, topless, at her window as the postman passed by …
Please, Mister Postman paints a vivid picture of England in the 1970s, where no celebration was complete without a Party Seven of Watney’s Red Barrel, smoking was the norm rather than the exception, and Sunday lunchtime was about beer, bingo and cribbage. But as Alan’s life appears to be settling down and his career in the Union of Postal Workers begins to take off, his close-knit family is struck once again by tragedy …
Format: Hardcover (327 pp.) Publisher: Bantam Press
Published: 17th September 2014 Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction
Find Please, Mister Postman on Goodreads
I’m attending several events at this year’s Henley Literary Festival (which runs from 29th September to 7th October), and one of them is ex-Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson talking about In My Life, the latest volume of his award-winning memoirs. Before entering parliament in 1997, Alan had a career in the Post Office and was General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union. My husband also worked for the Post Office around the same time and knew some of the people that Alan mentions in his books. In preparation for the event, we’ve both been reading earlier books in the series: The Long and Winding Road (my review to follow) and Please, Mister Postman (which my husband reviews below).
Alan Johnson’s second volume of memoir, Please, Mister Postman, covers his time as a postman in Slough and describes family and community life on the Britwell Estate in the 1970s and 1980s. I found the account of working life at Slough Post Office vivid, very interesting and enlightening. The daily banter between colleagues (familiar to me) was funny but often wise, and incidents on the postmen’s rounds (known as ‘walks’) could be revealing!
This, of course, was an important period of transformation when the Post Office was reorganized to become a corporation and no longer a government department, and telecommunications split from the postal side of the business. Alan joined the Union of Communication Workers very early on and became Branch Chairman in Slough before being elected to the National Executive Council of the UCW.
The book ends at a pivotal moment in Alan’s personal life.
Alan Johnson is appearing at Henley Literary Festival on 30th September 2018 (event sold out at time of writing)
In three words: Wry, fascinating, honest
Try something similar…This Boy by Alan Johnson
About the Author
Alan Johnson was born in May 1950. He was General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering Parliament as Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997. He served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that, he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Education and Health.
His first memoir, This Boy, was published in May 2013 and won the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Orwell Prize. Alan’s latest book, In My Life: A Music Memoir, was published in September 2018.
Connect with Alan