Cotswold Mother: Pass the parcel

Sorry, I am in. You'll just have to ring the bell and make the delivery.

Sorry, I am in. You'll just have to ring the bell and make the delivery. - Credit: Archant

I was holding in my hands a red and white card informing me that Royal Mail had visited ‘While you were out’. While I was what? I was 10 metres from the front door

When you work from home, as I do, you become familiar with delivery people. Royal Mail, Hermes, DHL, those UPS chaps who always look faintly embarrassed to be wearing such a terrible uniform… they all knock on my door. Occasionally they even have a parcel for me, although most of the time it’s for one of our neighbours.

Fellow freelancers complain that such interruptions are the curse of the work-at-home writer, but taking in a parcel can give my day the sense of purpose it sometimes needs when ‘writing a book’ has mostly consisted of deleting 15,000 words and typing seven new ones. And when my husband comes home from work and asks me how my day has gone, he is far more sympathetic when I explain that I would have surely found my muse had it not been for the delivery of next door’s new curtains and number 38’s vacuum cleaner.

Much better than admitting that, even without external interruptions, I could easily have frittered the day away on social media, or spent an entire morning watching YouTube videos of kittens falling into bathtubs.

Our regular postal worker is a pleasure to chat to. She’s always cheerful, despite Chipping Norton’s capacity for sub-zero temperatures when the rest of the Cotswolds are in shorts, and doesn’t seem to mind being greeted enthusiastically by a muddy spaniel, who shoots out of the front door like a rat up a drainpipe the second she sees daylight. I have no axe to grind with her. No, this month’s literary axe is destined for ‘Royal Mail delivery officer 25’, whose red and white missive fluttered through the door at precisely 12:45 this afternoon.

I heard the thud of the letterbox and the gentle sound of paper against hall floor, and my heart leaped in the way that it does when the post hasn’t yet been and despite knowing it will only contain bills I can’t help but imagine something more exciting, like fan mail, or a film contract for my first book, which stipulates that Benedict Cumberbatch will play the lead, and that he will insist on working very closely with me, in my capacity as writer-on-set. By the time I had finished imagining the sort of research Mr Cumberbatch might want to carry out with me, I was a little flushed and in need of a peppermint tea.

I went to pick up the post on my way through the hall, and was flabbergasted to see that not only was there not a film contract but that I was holding in my hands a red and white card informing me that Royal Mail had visited ‘while you were out.’ While I was what? While I was 10 metres from the front door, in a house with walls so thin you can’t put a picture up without a chunk of plaster falling off? I know I’m knocking on a bit nowadays, but I’m fairly confident that either the spaniel or I would have heard the doorbell ring.

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I rang Royal Mail, speaking to an extremely nice man who logged my complaint and politely informed me that my package could be redelivered in two days. Two days? “But what if Benedict needs an answer tomorrow?” I said, before remembering that the mysterious package might not be a film deal after all, and indeed that Benedict Cumberbatch may still be blissfully unaware of my book.

I put down the phone and tried to get back to work, but the red and white card taunted me from beneath my mug of peppermint tea. If not exciting book news, then what? Delivery officer 25 had confidently ticked the ‘it’s too large’ box, which was promising, although I once received a pair of swimming goggles in a box large enough to house a television, swathed in bubble wrap and marked ‘this way up’. It was no good, I simply couldn’t wait two days; I was going to have to collect it myself. Thus I climbed down from my high horse and into my Ford Galaxy, and drove to the sorting office.

“You put this card through the door, even though I wasn’t out,” I said pointedly, although rather less crossly than on the phone, because after all it wasn’t really the man in the sorting office’s fault, and also I really wanted my parcel and I wondered if the Royal Mail might have some sort of policy about customers’ manners. “Sign here,” the man said. He pushed a dull looking package across the desk. It wasn’t postmarked ‘Hollywood’, but perhaps they didn’t go in for corporate franking machines in L.A. I waited until I was back in the car before tearing open the brown paper, realising almost immediately that my relationship with Benedict Cumberbatch was not yet cemented. Not unless he had taken it upon himself to send me a tray of cinnamon and blueberry muffins, which – let’s face it – is unlikely. I mean, how would he even know I liked cinnamon?

I found a card nestled between two slightly squashed muffins. “Thanks for taking in so many of our parcels,” it read. “Here’s a little something to say sorry for interrupting your work! Best wishes, from number 38.”