Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 40 seconds
Everyone has a story. Islington Faces joins Csaba Miklos Beck, the cheerful postman on the St Thomasâ round (near Finsbury Park), and finds out what aÂ postman is thinking as he puts the postÂ through our letterboxes. Interview by Nicola Baird
“My name, Csaba*, is typically Hungarian, but my last name sounds German,â says Csaba Miklos Beck who works for Royal Mail as an N4 postman. He came to Britain in 2006 âto learn English and meet people from all around the world. A friend let me stay in Finchley and I got used to the area, so Iâm still there.â But now he lives with his wife. âI met her on one of those dating sites,â he says with a broad grin, âbut sheâs Hungarian too â we got married at Gretna Green, our family loved it!â
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Csaba grew up in the medieval city of Pecs, Hungary, not far from the Croatian border. Itâs a beautiful and historic place, chosen as a European Capital of Culture in 2010. Csaba and his wife, Adrienn, like to visit by taking “the slow route back every summer.”
“We drive 1,900km going through France, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. It should take a day of driving, but we like to take one to two weeks to have a holiday and learn the languages. Itâs much easier to learn a language if you are in the countryâ says Csaba, as we walk around his round. Itâs a fiercely hot June day but Csaba doesnât seem bothered.
Csaba, now 32, has been a postman since 2007, a job that is clearly for the fit as he has to walk for around four hours every day. Itâs an early start. He begins sorting letters at the depot near Tufnell Park around 6.30am ready to leave the depot between 9.30-10am. âWe used to do all the walks on our own,â says Csaba who mostly works six days a week and commutes to work via bike.
âOne postman used to come on the 29 bus to Finsbury Park with the big trolley.â
But nowadays Csaba and a colleague use the van to transport the post close to their area before spending about three and a half hours hours on âthe walkâ.
In each of the streets that I watch Csaba delivering the post he has quite a few homes where he has to ring the bell to get a packet delivered, or signed for. If someone is in, heâs fabulously cheerful when they come to the door. If there is no answer a âsorry I missed you cardâ goes through the letterbox – and the package goes back to base.
âSince the 1990s the mail has gone down, but the packets go up. Thereâs about 20 a day on my walk. The world keeps changing and Royal Mail has to keep up,â he adds sagely.
This is one reason why an increasing number of items are tracked. âIn a few years the plan is to make every item trackable,â says Csaba with a certain amount of wonderment. âItâs a good idea, but a challenge.â
What the postmanâs thinkingâŠ
- Islington keeps advertising itself as the first 20mph borough in London. Thatâs good when I am on the bike as I go across Archway on the way to work. Itâs much more relaxing riding a bike in Islington than where I live in Finchley.
- Quill Street is full of cats! In winter I definitely see more cats than people. And dogs love me because Iâm not scared of them â dogs can smell if you are scared even if you use dog snacks.
St Thomasâ Church has afternoon teas and a chess club â that must get people back to church and together. There are not many churches you can say that are a centre for the community, so Iâm really proud of it.
- I like the gardens on my round. A lot of houses have jasmine, itâs lovely when it is in flower. The traffic on the little roads is quiet, itâs a bit like the countryside with all the trees too.
- When I first started my round I think people found me unfriendly as I didnât say much, but one of the cafĂ©s in Rock Street sometimes offered me food.
- I like the flowers at the bottom of the trees on St Thomasâ Road. I saw the people who live there planting it up last year. It makes the street nicer.
Comparing postal services
Csaba clearly enjoys his job. He points out his favourite house on Prah RoadÂ with its large grassy garden; in Romilly Road he chats to a dog; on St Thomasâ Road he shows off the tree pits and then tells me about the improvements heâs seen happening at Quill Street recently. Little escapes his notice.
âMy Hungarian friend was visiting and complained that all English houses look the same. But none are the same,â says Csaba pointing at the roof line on busy Rock Street. âI think he means they are typically English brick, but if you look you can see how different each one is, some even have plants growing on the roof!â
Although Csaba was a projectionist back home, he has three friends currently working for Hungarian Post (the equivalent of Royal Mail). âIn Hungary, in the countryside, many post offices were shut down so now thereâs a van which is a mobile post office. But in cities and towns itâs the same as here, except that the postman brings cash to the pensioners. Postmen will carry 1,000s of forints* as well as postal orders and they do get robbed: itâs a serious job*.â
Our postmanâs recipe
On my days off I go to the seaside with my wife, Adrienn, or fishing at Rib Valley in Hertfordshire, which has three big ponds. I like to fish for trout, carp and pike.
If I catch trout then we go home and fry it on the hob with butter, seasoning (rosemary and pepper) and always add a bit of lemon and white wine. Serve with potatoes, chopped parsley and butter.
Whatever the weather
The most gruelling part of being a Royal Mail postman is the weather, though Csaba reckons âwinter is alright. I donât like it when itâs minus centigrade or icy, but weâve got gloves with and without fingers.â In fact the weather here in Islington is similar to Hungary – âexcept the Hungarian summer is a few degrees hotter, and the winter a few degrees colder,â explains Csaba.
Anyone mostly based atÂ home knows whatÂ a special pleasure it is to hear the doorbell mid-morning and guessÂ that itâs probably the postman with a package. I have a strange feeling that when I retire (years from now!) Iâll be sending myself packages just to make sure I have someone saying hello occasionally. And if itâs a postman as friendly as Csaba Iâll consider myself lucky. But right now it seems that heâs the one who feels lucky â and itâs all because he really likes the Islington streets where he has to deliver our post. Thank you Csaba for all your hard work.
- To find your nearest post office use this link.
- In summer 2015 a UK 1st class stamp cost 63p and a 2nd class stamp 54p.
- Csaba – pronounce with a silent C. Or call him Mr B.
- 1000s of forints – forints are the Hungarian currency.
- serious job – in the UK the poster pays postage, but in Hungary there’s an option for the recipient to pay the postal charges.
Over to you
If youâd like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at theÂ A-Z Â index, orÂ search by intervieweeâs roles or Meet IslingtoniansÂ to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola