Friday, March 30, 2007

The Post Office: Conspiracy or Cock-Up? (Where in the world am I? [40])

The performance of the postal service here is worryingly erratic. Sometimes whole strings of letters and parcels from overseas will arrive in quick succession, and I'll be lulled into thinking there's no problem. Then I'll get an e-mail from a friend asking why I didn't thank them for the package they sent a couple of months ago, and I'll think, "Oh SHIT, not again!"

Sometimes, I concede, delivery problems might possibly have 'legitimate' reasons. One or two of my friends do have atrocious handwriting; and it's hard enough for the locals to recognise Western script as it is! My good friend Lizzie, my (former) No 1 E-Penpal, claims to have sent several parcels which failed to get through; I suspect it might be because she naively admitted on the customs declaration slips that they contained food products (which are, of course, not allowed). However, it's not as though you receive a polite notice from the International Post Office saying "Sorry, we had to confiscate a parcel addressed to you because it contained banned items" or "We regret that we have had to remove forbidden foodstuffs from your parcel; please come to this office to collect the remainder of the contents." Oh no - the parcel just never arrives. And somewhere in a back room at the International Post Office, the boys are pigging out on Walker's Crisps, Creme Eggs, and Twiglets.

The other thing that quite often seems to 'go astray' is books. It was particularly annoying when, last autumn, an American writer friend sent me an advance copy of her 1st novel, and that disappeared. I wonder if the censors are trying to read all the 'printed matter' that gets sent to me before they allow it to be delivered?? That could result in some long delays!

I am particularly anxious about this at the moment because when I was visiting my family home in Wales last month I cherry-picked 5 or 6 favourite paperbacks from my huge mothballed library to bring back with me; then, realising, the day before my flight home, that my luggage was dangerously in excess of my weight allowance, I decided to post them to myself. That was 5 weeks ago, and there's still no sign of them. Do 'printed matter' packages go by surface mail? I had thought it was a 'less express' form of airmail; I could have sworn I'd received this form of mail in the past within only 2 or 3 weeks of posting (regular airmail letters typically take 10-12 days to get here from Europe or America; usually slightly longer from America, which I take to be the result of some sort of nose-thumbing obstructionism targeted at The Great Satan).

Very, very anxious just now. I love those books. I had the feeling as I handed them over the counter in a post office in West London that it was a bit like waving goodbye to family members boarding the Titanic: there was an awful foreboding, an agonising apprehension that I might never see them again.

But..... is it really censorship or persecution.... or even theft..... or is it just the rampant incompetence that we see in almost every other area of public and commercial life in this country? That is THE QUESTION.

3 comments:

Tulsa said...

!!! I can't believe you handed over your cherished books to the Post Office!!!

Please accept my condolences.

I've been slowly bringing over my library, so drop me a line with the titles and I'll see if I've got them here to lend to you.

Froog said...

Ha! They finally showed up today.

The paranoid shard of my splintered personality is convinced that this is only because I abused the Chinese postal service online last week.

Tulsa said...

:)

Congratulations. You should hold a reading party just to celebrate.

You could present a favorite section from each book.

we could arrange something at the bookworm and get some slides going of you anxiously checking your post box every day; of you furiously typing away online abusing the postal service; of the postal service fretting over your comments as they read your blog (yes, of course they read your blog).

Part two of the slide show would be the postmen picking straws to see who would the (un)lucky one to approach your door with the package in hand and your reaction as you reach for their throat, then realize they are carrying your books in hand.

It just might be the Bookworm's feature of the month.

Let me know and I'll get the marketing started.