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Secret life

“People have sent some really significant messages”

Optometrist and head of contact lenses at Specsavers, Russell Peake, on delivering telegrams by bike in Warwick and Leamington

Peake

My brother in law’s neighbour collects typewriters. He has over 100 in his house. I rang him up and he said that he would find me one. Telegrams have been something I have thought about doing for quite a long time, but it was only once I got a classic 1960s Olivetti typewriter earlier this year that I started.

My parents had telegrams around their house – some from my grandparents’ wedding, and one my dad sent my mum in the 70s saying ‘I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.’ I always thought telegrams were nice keepsakes. It is different from the normal way that you receive messages these days.

It is mainly done through the website or Instagram (@spatelegram). Someone sends me a message, I type it up and then deliver it on my bike. A couple of times the weather has been a bit cold and miserable but I don’t mind – I just get my waterproof layers out.

Peake
A Spa Telegram with long-tailed tit logo.
We feed the birds here and I’m a big fan of the long-tailed tit so that’s what I chose to draw for the logo. When delivering a telegram, you are flying from one place to another, so it made sense.

There have been a mix of messages and people of all ages have been sending them. I have delivered a few to elderly relatives who are shielding, saying how they can’t wait to see them again. I’ve done a number of telegrams for new arrivals, including one congratulating a family on the birth of their twins. People have sent some really significant messages – it has been a privilege to deliver those.

I got an email back from a grandmother saying that the telegram had made her day and brought back memories. It has been lovely when it has given that sense of nostalgia for the older generation.

I’ve done a number of telegrams for new arrivals, including one congratulating a family on the birth of their twins

 
I am not currently charging for the telegrams. I am asking for people to donate if they want to Guide Dogs UK. Myself and my wife are both optometrists and we board guide dogs at our house. It is a very relevant charity for us, knowing the impact that the dogs can have.

Being someone who sits on a laptop most of the day, it is so different to use the typewriter – to see it physically printing out the letters. On your phone errors are autocorrected, and on your laptop, mistakes are highlighted. The typewriter does none of that. I will tell people there might be errors, but it is part of the charm.

  • As told to Selina Powell.