When Sharok started work as a postman for Royal Mail they had two deliveries a day. Just previously it had even been three. Lodge Road, where he worked, depot number 8, was thought to be the best in London. Good people worked there, with much knowledge and experience. Mr Philpott was Sharok’s first manager and he had fifty years in the job. Mr Philpott is still around today, aged 90, seen shopping in the High Street perhaps. Sharok had a proper and thorough training when he joined. They had a regular shift of eight hours and could work overtime to make up the pay. The work in the sorting office was done laboriously by hand. Then they went out till they were finished, delivering their particular rounds. Telegrams were delivered in person too. The load of letters and parcels was very heavy to carry, and when you had a trolley, you had to be careful that it was not stolen.
New Buildings on Old Sites
Opposite the Lodge Road depot, Gadafi’s Libyan Oil Company had an office, and the Thames IronWorks had a place on the canal. All that has gone now. The Royal Mail depot is demolished and awaiting redevelopment, the modern oil company building is part of the Wellington Hospital and the Regent Court flats stand on the Thames IronWorks site. Blocks of flats have been built on several of the original commercial sites in St John’s Wood. There was the Peugeot building in Abbey Road; the BT building in Hall Road; Lex Brookland, Volvo where Templar Court stands now and the Volkswagen garage in Lodge Road. Sharok remembers them all.
Now Sharok works from the Kilburn depot, situated behind Kilburn Park Road which they share with the Kilburn mail area NW6. The sorting office is huge, very computerised, with the machines reading the postal codes and so sorting the mail electronically. They have good facilities, with a large canteen with pool table on the premises. There is a Royal Mail hub out at Greenford and big red trucks go up and down the M40.
Sharok’s Delivery Round
Sharok goes out on his delivery round with Brian who is the designated van driver. They split their area between them and collaborate on packets and parcels as necessary. You may have a certain choice about the duty you do, but if you finish quickly you may be assigned to go somewhere else. Sometimes people are drafted in to do a duty and they have no idea about the peculiarities of that round. Sharok and Brian have to deliver to many blocks of flats such as St John’s Wood Court, Century Court, Grove End House and also Wharncliffe Gardens and down to Capland Street, Frampton and Orchardson Streets. They know the porters, who come to trust them, and take packages for the residents. They also get to know many of the residents themselves over time.
Sharok came here travelling on a visit from his university in Iran and never went back. He was the first ever Iranian, that he knows of, to work for Royal Mail. He married, but sadly his wife, who had MS, has passed away. They had two children (his son joined Royal Mail too and finds it a good life) and Sharok now has three grandchildren whom he adores. Sharok lives in Kilburn and takes the children to Paddington Recreation Ground, cycling and swimming, spending a lot of time with them.
When Sharok first knew Kilburn it was full of the Irish. He learnt to avoid the drunken fights between Catholics and Protestants. He doesn’t drink himself. Then they just had Bejam, Safeway and the Co-op for shops in Kilburn High Street. Now the area is very cosmopolitan and there is a great variety of shops.
Changes in St John’s Wood
In St John’s Wood there also used to be pubs, a lot of which have closed now. Sharok has seen many changes. He is interested in the history of the area, noting blue plaques such as that for Guy Gibson of Bouncing Bomb fame. The Landseer studios and the recently refurbished Crockers Folly too. Celebrities he knows in the area include, Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Des O’Connor, John Major, Mark Bright, James Kahn. The area holds drug addicts too, and a hostel for the homeless. We have varied residents. The postmen hated delivering to Jubilee Buildings which smelt of manure from the horses of the Royal Horse Artillery , who of course have now left too. Sharok remembers American soldiers walking round in shorts. He has many stories about incidents with individuals he has met on his rounds.
Royal Mail Today
The job which the postmen do is an important and responsible one. We have seen the episode recently when TNT took over some rounds in London, Manchester and Glasgow. This Dutch firm thought they could cherry pick lucrative big towns for easy money. There were endless complaints about the work done by all the different postmen, so no trust was built up and deliveries were not done correctly or mail simply dumped. This cowboy firm went bankrupt, and Whistle which handled part of their business, also folded.
Sharok does not want to become a Royal Mail manager. They are different from those in Mr Philpott’s day, now being shareholders and tending to want to cut costs. He sees them calling meetings all the time. They can choose to do nights, or they may be sent to an area with no choice as to which. Management policy encourages people to take redundancy, but this is not always a good idea, it is not usually enough money for support in old age. Sharok enjoys his life as it is – and we are grateful for a job well done.