It was Christmas Eve in Bath.
Well, it was the morning of Christmas Eve.
We were about to get a train back to London for our stay at The Athenaeum and were looking forward to our champagne afternoon tea. As we were packing though, it was becoming clear that not only were our suitcases getting less organised, they were getting heavier. The increase in mass was all due to that gradual accumulation of travel related bits and pieces – maps, guidebooks, souveniers, and postcards. Lots of postcards. I collect them. At every significant place I would have to purchase postcards. Mark soon became used to this final customary stop as would select a few choice images to crystallise the experience. The result of my postcard-philia was a suitcase almost impossible to lift, let alone manoeuvre through crowded stations and streets. As we would be heading to Paris on Boxing Day, this morning in Bath was our last chance to post some items home and lighten the load.
The hotel manager gave us complicated and convoluted directions to the post office – leave the hotel, go around the corner, down the street, through the square, over the bridge, turn right, continue down until you see the Waitrose supermarket, cross the road…the instructions seemed endless. All he really needed to say was “Head for the great big church spire. It’s next door.”
At the post office we selected a nice big red cardboard parcel-post box. We assembled it and filled it up, topping it off with screwed up balls of newspaper. We were served by an Angel – her name was Phillipa and her wings were made of wire and tinsel. It was Christmas Eve after all. She had a halo too, bobbing over her head as she weighed the parcel, presented us with customs forms to fill in and pressed tags and notes all over the box. She even suggested that we could save a lot of money if we separated the package into two parcels, but we didn’t mind. It would be worth the cost to have a lighter load. She gave me a carbon copy of the forms and we said goodbye to the red box. I imagined Averil, our housesitter, recieving the parcel back in Australia and popping it away until we returned. We would get back in a few weeks and open it up. It would be wonderful. That “Royal Mail” insignia filled me with confidence and optimism. Philippa wished us a Merry Christmas and we walked out into the cold crispness of a clear winter day to catch our train.
When we got back to Australia the parcel hadn’t yet arrived. I was a little disappointed but remained confident that the Royal Mail would soon come though with their delivery. Each day I would look forward to the postman. Days passed. Weeks started to accumulate. I sat down one day and emailed Royal Mail. I quoted my parcel number. They replied and said that my type of parcel can’t be tracked by their system – it wasn’t a registered package. I Googled “Royal Mail” and was confronted with news reports about millions of items going missing over the past few years – problems with employees interfering with parcels, incompetence, whole mailbags disappearing. My faith in the Royal Mail was weakening, and I began to wonder what sort of angel Phillipa actually was. The trip faded into the past. The parcel still nowhere to be seen. I was actually beginning to forget what I had put in the box. Yet it felt like part of the trip had been lost.
I said to Mark yesterday that I didn’t think the parcel would ever turn up. I pictured some UK postal worker rolling around on my postcards in their bedsit, laughing maniacally.
Today it arrived.
It was in the third month of its journey, but it finally made it.
Look – it cost over a hundred dollars to send:
There’s the date of the newspaper:
I felt like Howard Carter opening Tutankhamun’s tomb:
And the riches! Stonehenge:
The program from A Little Night Music:
The guidebook for the Cotswolds:
The Victoria and Albert Museum:
The Courtauld Gallery:
The Baths at Bath:
The program from Twelfth Night:
The Bodleian Library in Oxford:
The panorama booklet from the London Eye:
Things form my visit to Enfield (family history things):
The London Eye:
The Cold War Modern Exhibition:
The Carol Service at The Temple Church:
The Royal Albert Hall:
Items from the National Archives, including historical maps of London so I can trace my ancestors:
St Pauls Cathedral:
The Cotswold villages:
Maps, books, journals, pamphlets:
I believe in angels again.