Lost Love Letters from Mobile Sorting Office 451
“Hellooo, can I get you a sherry?” trills Great Aunt Sofya welcoming us inside the Mobile Sorting Office 451. She wears a silk headscarf and a flowered shirt, bright red lipstick surrounds her smile. As we walk in the van parked on the Ventnor esplanade she is busy stuffing a great deal of messages inside an emerald green bottle, but she doesn’t seem to mind the interruption.
“You see, at the Mobile Sorting Office 451 we reunite people with their lost post,” explains Great Aunt Sofya. Together with Red-work-experience-boy, she collects all the letters that couldn’t be delivered – those with a smudged address and those addressed to a very generic blue door somewhere – and they travel around the Country looking for the recipient.
We refuse the sherry – besides we are at work! – so Sofya shows us around the place instead. The van is packed with letters, parcels, postcards, old post boxes, typewriters (some out of order), even some bricks of an old British post office lie on the floor. Where do they come from?
“Red-work-experience-boy sold his family post office on e-Bay to an American who said he was looking for quaint English buildings,” says Great Aunt Sofya. “Red shipped it over there, but unfortunately it wasn’t quaint enough for him! So now this American is sending it back, brick by brick.”
At the MSO 451 they also help people find a pen pal through their message board and they encourage everyone who’s brave enough to send a message in a bottle. All you have to do is pop into the van to hand-write or typewrite your message and, when the wind blows from the land, they’ll send the bottle out at sea. Don’t panic if you’re not a good typewriter – it happens these days – Red or Sofya will be happy to teach you.
We leave Red and Sofya as they pack up to go to Bristol, hopefully to reunite someone with a letter that has no street name. But by the time you read this they could be anywhere in Britain, taking on a new mission, looking for a mysterious recipient who’s still waiting for his lost post. So if you spot a red van on your way to work, do pop in – they may have a love letter for you (and if they do not, you can still get a glass of complimentary sherry).
If you want to know more about what happens in this van full of surprises, listen to Alison Jane’s full interview with Great Aunt Sofya to hear all the success stories of people who were reunited with their lost post and lost lovers thanks to the unflagging work of the MSO 451 team.
Photo reportage by Elisabetta Landoni