Where pennies became shillings and shillings became pounds.
The former post office in Roslyn, now a real estate office.
Photo by Roy Colbert.
Post offices? I am tempted to say ''don't get me
started'', but I have always run as fast as my legs could carry
me from cliches, and saying ''don't get me started'' would just
be the straw that broke the camel's back.
But seriously, cliches aside, don't get me started. I was in
a queue at the Moray Pl post office last week and it sent me
round the twist. Fifteen people in front of me and 10 behind
- yes, that's what you do in a post office queue these days,
you count the people around you. And you wonder what
wrong-headed thinking has caused post offices to be closed
DOWN when NZ Post's surplus for the last financial year was
Before I continue to not get started, let me just say that
the staff at the Moray Pl post office are some of the finest
people I have ever been in business with. I was in there
every day when running my music store, sending weirdly shaped
boxes of music all over the world to sustain Dunedin's
reputation as one of the biggest trade exporters in the
Southern Pacific Basin. There were women there who were so
helpful and kind I even started giving them Christmas
Some of them are still there. But the queues have octupled.
Now, instead of somehow staying bright and happy all day
long, despite dealing with foreign tourists who can't speak
English and people who can't find their purse - yes, I am a
disgustingly impatient man - they now have to say, to
absolutely every customer, sorry for the wait.
Can you imagine the state of their larynxes at the end of
each working day? That phrase must carve a line in the throat
that deepens by the minute. Ten years' apologising to
customers for inexorable waits because NZ Post only has
$169.7 million spare is going to create a fascinating
collection of human throats to be dedicated to medical
science. What is this deep and crooked larynxial chasm, the
medical students of the future will ask - did these people
eat sardine cans?
As the afternoon rolled by last week and the sun set slowly
in the west, I took to looking back on post offices in my
life. As a child I was given a shilling to bank at the post
office every Wednesday, because, as it said on the passbook,
one gathers money like the archer gathers arrows, pennies
become shillings, and shillings become pounds. Personally, I
made the shillings buy me lollies at Fairburn's grocery store
next door, until the post office, heinous callous unthinking
bastards even then, sent out a statement to my parents which
said there was virtually nothing in the account. I guess
tightening up on primary school deposits was how NZ Post grew
their business to reach a profit of $169.7 million 50 years
later. That's a lot of arrows.
And their double standards were appalling. Around the same
time I found some crown coins tucked away in a drawer at
home, which were nominally worth five shillings, but were not
used as common currency, merely accruing considerable value
for coin collectors. I knew the ones I called mine were worth
heaps because I had asked at the public library. But the post
office, lying demonic thieves even then, just gave me five
shillings each for them to buy more lollies from Fairburn's
grocery store next door. In a civilised society, that is
called robbery. You can see why, when I am standing in a post
office queue in 2012, I am jabbering to myself like a crazy
man with wild eyes and clenched fists.
I don't know what the answer is. At the Moray Pl branch they
have one window for passport photos. Maybe if I went there
and said I couldn't read the sign because I am blind they
might serve me on postal matters. The queue for that one is
usually only about three. But NZ Post will have something
scabrous planned for the passport photos window, you just
• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.