Esther Byrne

 

Ahh, The Jolly Postman – that most soothing and escapist of children’s books…

A firm favourite of mine as a child; it has truly stood the test of time, both in terms of commercial sales, and in terms of my personal connection to it. It is still a book I find myself turning to from time to time; drawing comfort from the drawings and envelopes and my many happy memories of having it read to me.

It’s simple, and it’s magical, and that’s why it works.

For anyone who doesn’t know, it concerns an unnamed postman on a bicycle who spends the day delivering letters and taking tea with various fairytale characters. All the letters are reproduced, with leaflets, postcards and tiny stories inside envelopes for the reader to pull out and enjoy. The postman’s day is a simple one and a hospitable one (even the wicked witch offers him ‘green’ tea), and I’ve always thought it looks like a lot of fun.

Being chronically ill these past few years has greatly reduced my social life, and the days of clubbing and parties are long since behind me. These days, whenever I do see a friend, it is pretty much always one-on-one, during the day and involving some form of hot beverage.

Conversations are often short and not as frequent as I would like. Friends are busy; I am not, and there can be a disconnect at times. I have to learnt to adapt my conversational style to these short and intimate visits, and to let go of the days when I took for granted the ability to head off to the pub with work colleagues at the end of the day. These days, group discussions are very tiring for me, and often what I do have to talk about doesn’t relate to work (I can only manage a small number of hours), but rather my novel in progress or something I spotted in the local woods.

And let me tell you, the number of people who are willing to talk about work is significantly higher than the number of people who are willing to talking about constructing fantasy novels or finding ladybird larvae. So, naturally, the number of people I socialise with has decreased as well; falling with my energy levels.

This leads me back to the Ahlbergs’ timeless creation. The jolly postman drinks his tea, makes short conversation and then heads off on his way. He is happy to see people (even though it’s brief), he’s grateful for the tea, and he’s also keen to get home at the end of the day.

In my present situation, I find myself relating to this more and more. In my first year of being ill, I grieved for my lost energy, work and social circle.

Now, four and a half years on, I have a different outlook.

My conversations are short, but they are meaningful.

I have fewer friends, but the people I connect with are genuinely interested in my writing and love of nature.

I no longer drink alcohol, but in all honesty, I’ve always preferred the taste of coffee, anyway…

 

Yes, life with chronic illness is hard. Yes, my life is vastly different to most people my age. Yes, I still want to get well.

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what I have now.

Little Esther loved The Jolly Postman because it was simple.

 

Big Esther is learning to love the simple, too.

 

The Jolly Postman is available to buy from https://uk.bookshop.org/p/books/the-jolly-postman-or-other-people-s-letters-allan-ahlberg/1663033?ean=9780670886241 and various independent retailers.

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