Csaba Miklos Beck: postman

15 Jul

Everyone has a story. Islington Faces joins Csaba Miklos Beck, the cheerful postman on the St Thomas’ round (near Finsbury Park), and finds out what a postman is thinking as he puts the post through our letterboxes. Interview by Nicola Baird

Postman Csaba Miklos Beck: “I enjoy this job. You have to watch the numbers, and there’s always something going on.”

Postman Csaba Miklos Beck: “I enjoy this job. You have to watch the numbers, and there’s always something going on.”

“My name, Csaba*, is typically Hungarian, but my last name sounds German,” says Csaba Miklos Beck who works for Royal Mail as an N4 postman. He came to Britain in 2006 “to 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 I’m still there.” But now he lives with his wife. “I met her on one of those dating sites,” he says with a broad grin, “but she’s Hungarian too – we got married at Gretna Green, our family loved it!”

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Csaba grew up in the medieval city of Pecs, Hungary, not far from the Croatian border. It’s 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. It’s much easier to learn a language if you are in the country” says Csaba, as we walk around his round. It’s a fiercely hot June day but Csaba doesn’t seem bothered.

Postman Csaba Miklos Beck: “You should wear the uniform. Royal Mail supplies everything - leather shoes, waterproof trainers and boots made by brands like Magnum, Caterpillar and Anvil.”

Postman Csaba Miklos Beck: “You should wear the uniform. Royal Mail supplies everything – leather shoes, waterproof trainers and boots made by brands like Magnum, Caterpillar and Anvil.”

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. It’s 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. “We used to do all the walks on our own,” says Csaba who mostly works six days a week and commutes to work via bike.

One postman used to come on the 29 bus to Finsbury Park with the big trolley.”

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 ‘the walk’.

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, he’s fabulously cheerful when they come to the door. If there is no answer a ‘sorry I missed you card’ goes through the letterbox – and the package goes back to base.

“Since the 1990s the mail has gone down, but the packets go up. There’s about 20 a day on my walk. The world keeps changing and Royal Mail has to keep up,” he adds sagely.

This is one reason why an increasing number of items are tracked. “In a few years the plan is to make every item trackable,” says Csaba with a certain amount of wonderment. “It’s a good idea, but a challenge.”

Your postman.

Your postman.

What the postman’s thinking…

  • Islington keeps advertising itself as the first 20mph borough in London. That’s good when I am on the bike as I go across Archway on the way to work. It’s 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 I’m not scared of them – dogs can smell if you are scared even if you use dog snacks.
  • 20150705_092057

    Tree of Heaven flowering in St Thomas’ church garden.

    St Thomas’ Church has afternoon teas and a chess club – 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 I’m really proud of it.

  • I like the gardens on my round. A lot of houses have jasmine, it’s lovely when it is in flower. The traffic on the little roads is quiet, it’s a bit like the countryside with all the trees too.
  • When I first started my round I think people found me unfriendly as I didn’t say much, but one of the cafés in Rock Street sometimes offered me food.
  • I like the flowers at the bottom of the trees on St Thomas’ 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 Road with its large grassy garden; in Romilly Road he chats to a dog; on St Thomas’ Road he shows off the tree pits and then tells me about the improvements he’s seen happening at Quill Street recently. Little escapes his notice.

“My Hungarian friend was visiting and complained that all English houses look the same. But none are the same,” says Csaba pointing at the roof line on busy Rock Street. “I 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!”

Although Csaba was a projectionist back home, he has three friends currently working for Hungarian Post (the equivalent of Royal Mail). “In Hungary, in the countryside, many post offices were shut down so now there’s a van which is a mobile post office. But in cities and towns it’s 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: it’s a serious job*.”

Csaba with a very big fish.

Csaba with a very big fish.

Our postman’s 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 “winter is alright. I don’t like it when it’s minus centigrade or icy, but we’ve got gloves with and without fingers.” In fact the weather here in Islington is similar to Hungary – “except the Hungarian summer is a few degrees hotter, and the winter a few degrees colder,” explains Csaba.

Anyone mostly based at home knows what a special pleasure it is to hear the doorbell mid-morning and guess that it’s probably the postman with a package. I have a strange feeling that when I retire (years from now!) I’ll be sending myself packages just to make sure I have someone saying hello occasionally. And if it’s a postman as friendly as Csaba I’ll consider myself lucky. But right now it seems that he’s the one who feels lucky – and it’s 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.

Words*

  • 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 you’d 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.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

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3 Responses to “Csaba Miklos Beck: postman”

  1. Nadine Mellor July 15, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks Nicola, this is my postie and now I know his name! And that’s nice he likes our treepits

    >

    • nicola baird blogs July 15, 2015 at 9:35 am #

      Hi Nadine, I think the treepits give so many people joy, thank you for them! It’s also lovely to know how much pleasure they give people working along that route, like the postman. Nicola

  2. nicola baird blogs July 21, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    From Facebook and email:
    Antony: Nice one.

    Nicolette: Everyone benefits from the planting of front gardens and tree pits. Well done the Blackstock Triangle Gardeners.

    Jan: Do you think that nice postie could let me know if any-one called Dowling still lives at St. Thomas’ Road. I would be very grateful if he could let me know. (From Nicola: Jan I will put a note through the door, but I guess you could also try writing!).

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