Having recently fulfilled one of my all-time ambitions and become the proud owner of a pretty, Wedgwood blue Pashley Poppy – a smaller and sweeter version of its better-known big sister, the Princess – it has quickly become my favourite round-the-village bike, receiving many and varied compliments from the friends and strangers who we meet on our rides.
But, although over-the-moon with its looks, practicality and performance, it lacks one accessory I consider integral to complete the Pashley look – whereas the Princess has one as standard, the Poppy does not arrive with the de rigueur front wicker basket.
But, no worries, Pashley accessories are readily available on the the internet, so I duly order one online and begin, impatiently, counting the days until it arrives.
Well, if it’s in store on the Wednesday, then looking through my completely full glass, I reckon I might even be in luck on Thursday morning. But, damn, I’ll be out on Thursday until the middle of the afternoon; just like the thing if it arrives on the one morning I’m not at home for the next few days. But, relief, I arrive home around three to find no offending, accusatory “You Were Out” cards behind the letterbox.
Friday: it’s now a couple of days since it should have been dispatched and I’m becoming a little anxious. I wait in all morning, taking an unhealthily prurient interest in the comings and goings of the courier vans up and down the street. It’s hot and I really do need to take advantage of this unseasonal sunshine (it’s July, after all, when, in normal years, it invariably rains) to fit in a bike ride. Two hours on, trying painfully to cool down in a cold shower, I curse my stupidity at waiting in until early afternoon before riding 20 miles in 32 degrees of heat.
Over recent years, while clocking the regular deliveries of a former neighbour, who appeared to make his (fairly lucrative) living buying and selling on eBay, plus using my own experience of never being in when Parcelforce delivered my annual bundles of exam papers, I’ve become frighteningly knowledgable about the patterns of courier deliveries to our street. So, as it’s now Saturday, using the fruits of my research I calculate there’s no chance of a delivery today and head out, in even fiercer heat, for an earlyish morning ride.
Imagine my horror then, when I’m overtaken by a DPD van within a couple of miles of home! The prospect of my poor basket arriving unwelcomed to an empty house and having to be taken back to an inhospitable van – plus the excuse of forgetting my bike pump, as well as the even fiercer heat – convinces me to turn round and head for home after 15 miles.
There is one heart stopping moment when I arrive and peer nervously into the dark abyss behind the front door and see something – a card, flyer, envelope? – lying on the doormat. I approach it with trepidation before relief engulfs my fragile psyche and I crumple the brightly coloured invitation from the Christadelphian God botherers round the corner.
So, Saturday afternoon and at least I can rest easy for the next 30 hours of so, before resuming my lonely vigil on Monday morning. But Monday at 10am has been earmarked for my long-awaited tennis coaching lesson – postponed repeatedly because of marking commitments, Wimbledon viewing and re-arranged from last week in order to recover from the stress of watching the final.
Will my basket by lucky enough to be in transit with one of the couriers who text in advance to advise of their delivery window?
Will any of my neighbours be in?
Can I risk nipping out for some milk?
Will it arrive before 9.45am, or after 11.30am?
Will I ever be able to receive my basket?
Well, in the event, it was no to the first four questions and yes to number five. After rushing back from the tennis, I have time for a rejuvenating flat white, before my old friend, the Parcelforce delivery driver, knocks at the door.
“You see, I always bring you sunshine, ma’m,” he says with a smile as I sign his handheld computer thing.
Waiting in for deliveries, with its inherent frustration, disappointment, exasperation just has to be the 21st century’s ultimate form of control freakery.
But sometimes, it’s all worth it.