December 21st 10pm: it’s the first year I don’t get to see any of the kids for Christmas and already my efforts to compensate are definitely not good-enough. After years of frustration with the South African postal service -where things of value are inevitably swallowed up in the black hole (no pun intended) called O.R.Tambo International Airport – I thought I had found the perfect alternative – Amazon.co.uk. Since Amazon uses Royal Mail (isn’t it comforting that the British postal service is still monarchical?) I assumed I was pretty safe that all the orders were in well before the latest date for free-super-saver delivery. I had even worked out a scheme where, by sending everyone’s presents to everyone else, all were assured of a surprise on Christmas morning. Alas, I had not accounted for Santa’s Secret Helpers – the home delivery service which takes over when you unwittingly choose the Universal wish list that isn’t actually dispatched by Amazon. Royal mail, bolstered by their sovereign confidence that nobody messes with HM, will happily leave your parcel on a doorstep or in a hallway, trusting that a kindly neighbor will watch over it or even take it in and share a friendly mince pie when you get home to pick it up. Santa’s Secret Helpers on the other hand, are acutely aware of the Grinch that lurks in each one of us and won’t hand it over until someone has signed for it. After two attempts to place the grandkids’ presents in the hands of their maiden aunt, I have discovered to my horror that SSH have returned the parcel to something worse than the Grinch’s hideout – the Mitcham Depot.
Dec 22 10 am: I am confident that all is not lost – SSH assure me that after two failed deliveries the parcel will remain safely at the depot until collected by the addressee. At this point I am discovering the foolishness of addressing the parcel to the people for whom it was intended. Now my grandchildren, at five and three respectively, are astute enough to have their own passports but not their own transport. Neither do they have any proof that they really live with their Aunty in Clapham, not their parents in Kingston. Arrgh!!!! I have decided there is nothing else but to confess my inadequacy and throw my problem at the mercy of my long-suffering son-in-law who fortunately does have a car, access to the passports and reasonable chance of getting a letter out of his sister-in-law. To be extra helpful I have even got the post-code and googled the depot where I am discovering an alarming number of ranting complaints about its inefficiency and unhelpfulness. In my mind I am beginning to have flashbacks of one terrible holiday experience when our family attempted to cross the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe on the Saturday before Christmas – it was bedlam! A roomful of belligerent, shoving people who had no idea how to form a queue, no idea which queue they wanted and no hope of getting out of there before new year (unless you bribed someone who looked important). I had better furnish saintly-son-in-law with the number of the tracking helpline – to check that the parcel is really back at the depot before he queues for hours to collect it. Now I am back to praying that by divine intervention the parcel might still arrive in Clapham before the trek to the depot-from-hell becomes necessary.
Dec 22 10.32 pm: Just falling asleep when disturbed by SMS from Clapham: “GOOD NEWS! The parcel is here! Hurrah! Must have come before (flatmate) left for his holiday.”
Phew! There is a God – who is better than Granny, thank goodness!