Posts Tagged ‘post’

Entranced for £3.21

14th October 2010 by Helen

Who’d have thought it.  To send one CD of photos to one of our sponsors, Miles & Barr Lettings Agents, in England, has provided us with one of those curious trips down memory lane.

Was it the aroma of old fashioned gum?  Was it the damp feel of gum holding the papers together?  Was it the sight of yards and yards of muslin?  Was it the old Brother sewing machine on the table behind the counter?  Was it even the application of sealing wax?  Maybe it was the quality of the thick brown parcel paper, quite unlike the thin crinkly stuff we have got used to in the UK?  Then again it might have been the coarse parcel string, deftly tied with secure knots?

behind the counter in the post office at Vladivostok - muslim covered parcel with seals on left

behind the counter in the post office at Vladivostok - muslin covered parcel with seals on left

Clutching our sponsor’s CD we had entered the Russian Main Post Office, quite unprepared for what we were about to experience.  At 2.50 pm local time we joined the short queue at counter number 1.  We watched in fascination as a parcel, wrapped in muslin, was sealed with a dozen large globules of sealing wax from the tubs lined up on the waist height shelf behind the counter.  We couldn’t recall ever having seen real old fashioned seals and sealing wax in common use before (or at least, not outside the little lumps of red stuff lawyers are familiar with).  Turning to us the counter clerk handed us an address form which we filled in, while she hand wrote two copies of the customs forms to which we added the name and address of Miles & Barr, along with our own name. 

sewing muslim covers for parcels

sewing muslim covers for parcels

Fascinated, we didn’t know who to watch next:  one woman to our right was measuring lengths of muslin against another large parcel, before sewing them into individual bags on the old Brother sewing machine behind the counter, and then sliding the parcel into the perfectly fitting muslin bag; or the counter clerk serving us, who had by now started to hand wrap our CD.  No pre-cut CD envelopes here.  A larger box was first cut to size and sealed with a bright yellow tape.  Then a double fold of thick brown parcel paper was laid out.  The CD was placed in the middle of the paper, at just the right angle, before the counter clerk deftly folded the paper, trimming off the excess as she went, in moves clearly well practiced.  I thought another roll of tape would be applied next, but I was wrong. The counter clerk turned and applied to our address label just the right amount of gum from the tub on the shelf to her right before bringing out a roll of parcel string.  The string was quickly, and again deftly, tied around our small parcel, and secured with perfect knots designed not to come undone under any circumstance.

Having been handed our fully and securely wrapped CD along with our customs forms we were directed along to counter number 4.  We waited briefly, as Paul savoured the opportunity for a trip down memory lane, feeling the still damp label where the gum had been applied, remembering the smells of the school art room where he had last used gum 40 years ago.  We thought maybe we would create a large parcel and send it to ourselves in England, just to keep wrapped with its muslin and seals.  The ultimate and most unique of souvenirs.

Paul proudly displaying our hand wrapped CD

Paul proudly displaying our hand wrapped CD

I held our precious parcel in my hand.  I thought about it’s destiny.  It will arrive in an office.  There the string will be cut, the carefully folded paper will be unfolded and together they will discarded. The yellow tape will be cut and the cardboard similarly discarded.  The thin plastic protective film will be revealed and no doubt similarly discarded.  Finally revealed, the CD, itself already a dated form of communication, will be slid into that even more modern receptacle, the computer, and whizzed back into the 21st Century.  It will have left behind it’s temporary shell from another age.

But I could not keep my parcel.  I had to let it continue its journey and moments later I handed it over with the customs forms, added our names and the details of Miles & Barr to another form, and paid the requested 151 Roubles.  Thus we left our precious cargo, and emerged once more into the busy modern city street outside.

We were entranced.  The whole process had taken 40 minutes.  Not because of lengthy queues, but because that was the process.  We wondered how the staff here would view the modern UK post office.  How would a UK post office counter clerk cope with the 1930’s approach still applied in the main central post office in one of the most significant cities in modern Russia.

Simon – maybe I’m an old sentimentalist, but I hope that as you receive this package you get a moment to appreciate the loving care and attention that has gone into preparing your CD for its transit across not only the miles but also, it seems, across the ages.

Trying to post a letter from Kazakhstan

5th July 2010 by Helen

Friday 25th June

Message to my dad – your birthday card was late because when I tried to post it from a post office in a largish town in Kazakhstan they looked perplexed and said they didn’t have the facilities to post anything to England!!

Gratefully, we find the mozzies are considerably reduced in number than they were from Poland onwards.  We are now in the desert and are also grateful to find there are few sandflies too.  Giving Helen a chance to recover from the multitude of lumps and bumps already obtained.

2010 06 25 - Kazakhstan road ruts (2)See the road ruts in Kazakhstan!!