The decline in mail through the Post Office (PO) was inevitable. With the internet and email, all "mail" now zooms to their destination in the blink of an eye and you can get a reply instantly.
The PO, now fondly referred to as "snail mail", sad to say, when compared to technology, was destined to die a slow death.
And may I add that in many instances the art of "penning" letters may also be dying a slow death.
Sometime ago I had an interview with Fiji TV on the issue of writing letters, I received a lot of pleasant responses from that. And yes I still have all the love letters that my best friend (now my wife) wrote to each other way back in the early 80s. The strings are still attached to my heart.
But back to the art of writing, before the Internet one had to use ones imagination to start a letter, continue, add flavour and then complete it.
And may I say that the letter was yours if you didn't get help from someone else, except if it was a love letter, then I doubt if one would ask a friend for advice.
Today people just do a search online and one can lift the contents of a letter. If the receiver is eagle-eyed he/she may decipher that it was plagiarised.
Writing is an art, and if one has good handwriting it is more than an art. In this day and age, I still receive letters in the mail. The senders usually do not have a computer nor do they like the Internet and Internet Cafes, but lots of writing paper and the time to write. And what makes up the bulk of the writing is the care they put into it.
I remember the days when the postman would come around to our area in Samabula North, Suva. We would hear the "tring-tring" of his bicycle bell and my elder cousins would rush out to see if they had received a letter. Or if the letter they had written to a cousin, aunt or boy friend had been answered.
We all knew the postman personally and if he brought lots of letters to our home, he was invited to a cup of tea and a cookie or a cold drink. And he would be soon on his way. I now know why he had lipstick on his cheek when he left.
But when my cousins would get a letter and if it was from a boyfriend, their squeals would bring the neighbours running out to see if someone had been hurt. But they were squeals of delight and there would be sighs of relief all round.
A little after that, all who received letters would go to their secluded corner to open it in private and I would hear sighs and aaarrs and ooooooo's and being so young and curious I would wonder their way and I would get a glare that would turn back the Third Reich and I would scurry away to safety.
I have a lot of experience as a child because I lived with extended family who wrote many letters. The house would smell like a perfume factory after one of my female cousins would have written a letter, put their lip print on it and sprayed it with perfume.
And the trip to the post office was like an expedition to deliver important papers to the Queen. Such was the delight, love and care that was put into the writing and delivery of the letter.
And looking back to the movies of soldiers serving in the frontline, the mail man was the most loved person second only to the cook.
When he came around to the trenches with bullets and mortars exploding in the distance, mud and sweat stained faces would look longingly at him to see if someone from back home had written. Because of the danger faced by soldiers, one never knew if that campaign would be his last and any word from home would give them reassurance and courage to carry on.
For the soldiers who received mail, it was like heaven had been sent to them.
The letters would be read over and over again, kissed, hugged and neatly folded and tucked away somewhere safe to be read over and over again in time.
For the soldier who didn't receive any, he would clamber up the fox hole, put on a brave face and with a tear rolling down his eye, point his 303 bolt action rifle towards the enemy and wait. To comfort himself he would pull out the last letter he got from home or a girl friend and read it. To receive an envelope was knowledge and reassurance that the people back at home were thinking of them.
Some would immediately pull out slightly soiled writing pad and pencils sharpened with a blunt bayonet or teeth and immediately start writing a reply to the letter.
And back home to receive a letter from a son, dad, husband, boyfriend or cousin that was slightly covered in mud, was like manna from heaven.
That indicated that their man was still alive.
Many of the old folk still have in their possession fountain pens and writing pads that they used to write letters with.
Many are now safely placed in sideboards to remind them of the days gone by. Some of the old folk now prefer the internet and email because it's faster. And I believe soldiers in the battle front now have sophisticated phones where they can speak to loved ones back home.
Today we see emails from young people who use the abbreviated language and frown upon it.
But times have changed and what can we do. But one thing is for sure, in formal letters of job or visa applications your letter will be tossed into the bin if you used abbreviated style. Like if you started with - "Dia Sir." And at the end you sign of writing "Onz."
And as for the slow demise of the Postal Industry, may I suggest that Post Fiji together with the Ministry of Education set up competitions on letter writing between schools.
This will be similar to the oratory contests and debates, let's have a letter writing competition. Participants will come in to a hall, sit at a desk that has a writing pad and pen a subject given to them right there and then and given a time limit to write their letter.
Letters can vary from 50 to 500 words. Part of the prize will be for the winners to go and work in the Post Office for a week to see what it's like and more.
I remember the days when I had pen friends and it was such a delight to write to Africa, New Zealand and Australia and find out about life over there. And all sent through the Post Office. Alas all that is gone. But let's revive the art of writing so that we do not lose it.
And may I ask, does the Postman always ring twice?
* Allen Lockington is a weekly writer. These are his views and not of this newspaper.