This is the e-mail crossing the border – with apologies to W H Auden


This is the Night Mail crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the postal order.

“Night Mail” was written by W H Auden for a 1936 film about the London, Midland and Scottish mail train traveling from Scotland to London. The music for the film was written by Benjamin Britten. The opening lines, create great rhythm. Maybe after seventy five years, it is time for an update. JKA. It is the age of the internet after all.

This is the email crossing the border,
Confirming payment or on line order,
Message for the rich, warning for the poor,
Internet access, open and sure.

What happens next to the shop at the corner,
High street retail, soon forlorner,
No need for mail trains, passing thru moorland,
Amazon, eBay, this is now your land.

Slipping silently as she passes,
Into the inbox along with the masses.

Online surfing, bricks and clicks,
Instore pick up, now so slick,
What will happen to the girl next door,
Order picker, can’t be sure.

Through data farms the e-mail slides,
Leaving an e-trail, nothing to hide.

Daylight threatens the e-mails gone,
Auto responders are switched on,
Missives untouched by human hand,
Speeding on tracks laid by high speed broad band.

All Scotland waits for 3G cover,
In the dark glens, the pigeons hover,
Bearing attachments, emails pass,
Men long for news, no second class.

Tweets of thanks, complaints about banks,
Tweets of joy from the girl and boy,
Facebook profiles, pokes and prods,
LinkedIn updates, winks and nods.

Applications for situations,
Terms and conditions, accept-declarations,
Gossip and updates, from all the nations,
Headline news, of altercations.

Mobile phones with instant snaps,
Instagram uploads with Google maps.
Vimeo, YouTube, Pinterest and Flickr,
Online updates couldn’t be slicker.

Emails from uncles, cousins and aunts
Skyping with Scotland and the South of France

Video linking with East and West,
What to wear to look the best,
E-mail backgrounds of every hue,
Read on iPad or a Kindle view

The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring
One forty characters, the tweet based flooring
Clever and cleverer, emails long,
Spell check not working, grammar all wrong.

More to say, try a personal blog,
Writers cramp, the progress fog.
Thousands asleep, dreaming of monsters,
Messages pass, from ebased sponsors.

End of journey, e-mails arrive.
Docking station, computer hard drive.
No, one to hear the postman’s knock.
Right of passage to the homepage dock.

John Ashcroft November 2012 Can’t promise to be so lyrical every week but why not sign up for updates from the campus. Or Download the iPhone App!

About the Author

  • Dr John Ashcroft

    John Ashcroft is a visiting professor at Manchester University and Executive in residence at Manchester Business School, specializing in Economics Corporate Strategy and Social Media. Author of the Saturday Economist, The Apple Case Study and The Sunday Times and Croissants John is Chief Executive of pro.manchester, a Director of Marketing Manchester, a member of the GM Chamber of Commerce Council and the AGMA Business Leadership Council.


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