On March 17th, I mentioned a childhood poem called The Baby Over The Way. Problem-solving Roger, working from home these days, therefore easily distracted, sourced it for me, in an 1980s facsimile of a book of Nursery Rhymes compiled in the 1930s, and the stockist, Stillman Books, based somewhere in British Columbia, posted it to me on March 31st. By surface mail, as the cheaper postal option is known. Glacier mail would have been quicker. For a long long long time, there was no sign of my impulse buy, and the bookseller, Terry Stillman and I began to lose hope.
Since March, there has been regular correspondence between Terry and I about what might have happened to this little book, 3 months' transit time seeming a trifle unreasonable. Imagine if I'd waited in for the postman.
Eventually, hope faded, and last week I sent a Missing Post claim form to Royal Mail. An interesting form, the International Claim form; read the following sentence as though English was not your first language, and try to imagine what it might mean: Please Note: We cannot entertain any claims of a consequential nature.
I then received my returned form with a printed letter of response which in content and tone suggested to me that entertaining any claims at all would be a struggle for the Royal Mail; it indicated that the sender, rather than the intended recipient, who is actually the more injured party in the matter, must notify the postal authorities in the country from which the book was despatched. Silly me, I had thought that my claim form, plus bank statement evidence of purchase, would do, but no. Only liaison between the two juggernaut-like postal systems would do to initiate a search for a mere children's book, lost for more than 2 months.
This liaison, perhaps involving many more ponderous and strangely-worded forms, might take centuries, of course, and if Canada Post demanded that communication must be in both English and French, then we, the aggrieved customer, the nameless creator of claim forms, the UK postal system and all, would be well and truly stuffed, as the world knows how poor we are at foreign languages. What's "we cannot entertain" in French, then? See, it doesn't really mean lost post claims, does it.
But before I could summon up enough bile-fuelled energy to move on to the next stage of this obstructive process, the book arrived today, its careful packaging in mint condition. And a pretty decent little book it proved too, in good condition, filled with delightful drawings and strange old-fashioned rhymes, which were so familiar I could have been six again.
But.... 85 days to travel from Canada to England? Where has it been all this time? What route did it have to take? And, come to think of it, what is surface mail anyway? I read somewhere that no one actually sends mail by sea any more, and that airmail is now the norm. Can this be true? Anyway, I have my book, and might try to post something from it here for your entertainment of the non-consequential sort.