Thursday, November 16, 2006


Last week, my printer in the UK shipped me a copy of my latest book by way of a well-known overnight courier service. Standard stuff, bit boring this, I hear you say. And it would be, but for the fact that, so far, the courier service in question has been unable to decide just which night it will over the package to me (if you see what I mean).

By night number three, I checked with the printers who checked with the service. Delivered today, they reported, confidently. Four days, or nights later, I was getting concerned.

I realise that my works are “hot properties” and the idea haunted me that some desperate bibliophile, anxious to obtain what will undoubtedly be a valuable first edition, had hi-jacked the van, en route.

The courier company dismissed this theory rather brusquely, I felt. “No,” they said, “ we tried to deliver but the recipient would not accept the package.” This struck me as being a more absurd theory than mine about the hi-jack. I was the recipient on the package and, even with advancing years and the subsequent loss of some memory cells, I was pretty sure I would have remembered the incident. I asked Joe. He said he would most certainly have accepted it, although admitting that he would have had to sign for it with a muddy paw print. Joe, I should add, is a dog.

I am a bit miffed that whoever it was that rejected the chance of a lifetime by having such a valuable work in his hand, did not appreciate it. Perhaps he did not read English, which would account for it, I suppose.

Now the company involved is an internationally known one and I would hate to be the one to bring about their commercial demise, therefore I will refrain from mentioning their name. I can reveal, however, that it is not Federal Express, United Parcel Services nor, surprisingly, the UK Parcel Service. But one would have thought that, as they started their business running between San Francisco and Hawaii without getting lost on the way and have operated in the south Pacific as far as Australia, experience of delivering didgeridoos to jolly swagmen sitting under coolibar trees alongside billabongs in the outback would have made them pretty nifty at the business of getting the goods to out of the way destinations.

It seems that we are in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle of France as far as they are concerned.

Searching for clues to this mystery, one that would have baffled Hercule Poirot or even Lord Peter Wimsey on their better days, I think I may have stumbled on the answer. Those of you who are old enough will recollect that, in 330 B.C., Pytheas of Massilia circumnavigated the British Isles and produced a map. It was not especially accurate but was a precedent for later travellers who made use of this handy aid to navigation. Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus and Sebastian Cabot all made use of maps or charts in order to find their way. As did my father in the days when we would vacation in England, finding our way by courtesy of the Automobile Association’s handy route planners, complete with descriptions of the bucolic countryside you were traversing.

Here in France, the authorities have not neglected our premises either. They are clearly marked on the map and, in our town square, there is a large display showing exactly how to reach us.

But this is where technology has overtaken us. I suspect that courier companies have replaced maps and commonsense with Global Positioning Units. You know, those gadgets that send drivers into impassable fords and coaches into lanes too narrow for them. A recent survey showed that maps provided a far quicker and better solution than this gee-whiz technology, although it does presuppose that you know how to read them.

Commonsense might help, as well.

We have been at the same address for some ten years. Bills find me with unerring accuracy. All the trades people in the town know us and how to find us. An enquiry at the post office, boulangerie or minimarket would undoubtedly set them on the right track and Monsieur Baranger, the garage proprietor, most assuredly knows where I am, since I owe him some money.

So here I am, still awaiting my package. One possible solution is that I order a copy from Amazon. The mail has always been able to deliver to me without any problem.

If you should want a copy of the book, I suggest you do the same although you could always contact the courier company. They seem to have a copy I’m sure they’d like to dispose of. That’s if they can find you, of course.

Stop Press: A call from the courier company now confirms my suspicions – we are not on their GPS (the brain substitute) and therefore, in their technological eyes, do not exist.

Tomorrow we have a rendezvous in the town square by the church which, by the grace of God, is on their GPS, giving them a sporting chance of finding it, and they will hand over the package after its eight day saga. Overnight service? A boy on a bike could have got it here faster!


Blogger Nej said...

The AA did something similar in the UK the other week - a young woman and her baby were abandoned in their broken down vehicle because they couldn't find the road on their GPS system.

But I must say GPS is generally very good... speaking as someone who writes software for GPS systems!

4:48 pm  

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