Saturday morning – mild hangover – full strength lurgy – maximum desire to stay in bed.

Turned on the radio to hear high-up wonk from the Post Office getting duffed up a bit by John Humphries

“So. The post office. It’s a bit shit isn’t it?”

(That may not be the exact wording – it was early)

“No, no, no. We delivered Twelve-ty gazillion packages a day, on time and on target. We do an excellent job in difficult conditions”

“Postman Pat, perhaps but the reality is, is it not, that it is, is it not, a bit shit?”

I pulled up the duvet, planning to nod off until Sandi Toksvig turned up to take me somewhere exotic.

“And what about Parcels? You don’t deliver them when people are actually at HOME, do you? and then you take them to a sorting office in the middle of nowhere which is only open between 07:31 and 07:34 on the first Thursday of Whitsun, do you not? what are you going to do about it?”

At this, I stirred uncomfortably. I had a parcel to collect. An important, nay VITAL parcel. The parcel containing all the presents my family had spent their time and money choosing and wrapping to be unwrapped and enjoyed on Xmas day. By Me.

“John, John, John – Your local post office is opening earlier and closing later over the xmas period. We have extra staff members ready to service you, the much cherished customer whom we venerate and adore. Of course, today IS the busiest day of the year and there WILL be busy-ness and queues and strife and chaos and woe and wailing and gnashing of teeth and some minor delays MAY be experienced by a few unfortunate customers but I think you’ll find that we’re offering an excellent range of … “

Suddenly, I was awake, out of bed and hurriedly putting my feet into my shirt sleeves. Within a couple of minutes I had my clothes on the appropriate limbs and was on the bus. Leapt off by the post office at 08:59. So far, so good.

The queue for the post office was on the street. “Already?” I thought. Then I noticed the door was locked. “But I heard the nice man on the radio saying they were open early? Don’t they USUALLY open at 9?”

The door was still locked at quarter past nine. Unrest in the queue. Pension books were being rattled against bus passes.

A fast car dramatically screeched to a halt. A hand was stuck out of the window, waving a key like the Lady of the Lake bearing Excalibur. The woman at the front of the queue ambled over, took the key, stuck her head in the window, chatted for a moment and sauntered back as the driver shot off, delivering keys wherever they were needed.

After some jovial banter (“i’ll probably set the alarm off now – ha ha ha ha ha”) the door was unlocked and the queue shuffled inside. By 9:30, I’d reached the front and handed over my card. Postofficelady peered at it, ran her finger down a list, then the second page of the list, then the first page again, then shook her head

“parcel, is it? and it’s definitely here? only it’s not on my list. What size is it?”
“the card I just gave you is all the information I have”
“Any idea where it would be? only it’s not on my list.”
“where? how would I possibly know?”
“It should be have been logged on my list. Do you want to have a look on my list while I have a look in the back?”

After 5 minutes of shuffling box sounds, she re-emerged.

“i’m sorry, it’s not here.”
“oh. Really? well….”
“you’ll have to phone Parcelforce – NEXT”
“I’LL have to?”
“yes – NEXT!”
“but the card said …

Tutting and hard stares were getting me nowhere so I resigned myself to calling Parcelforce HQ. They
also had a list. Their list said my parcel was at a different post office to the one the driver had written on the card.

“and where is that, exactly?”
“Well, I don’t really know the area so i can’t give you directions. I can give you the post code?”
“How would the postcode help me? I’m standing in the street with nothing but a broken umbrella and an altogether useless piece of card in my hands. What am I going to do with a sodding post code?”
“Can’t really help you mate. Can’t be far though.”

Relying on a bus stop map and directions from a man who warily stood between his dog and the bedraggled, beardy man dripping rain on his shoes, I finally found the place. And got my parcel without any fuss or hassle or rudeness. And I’m now aware of a Post Office I never knew existed before.

As luck would have it, I’d now walked almost all the way back to where I started, only now I had a box full of parcels, some recently acquired greasy-fry-up provisions and an extension to my loathing for mankind.

“it’s beginning to feel a lot like Xmas”