Snail Mail

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My cousin near Salisbury, UK sent us a Christmas card, which arrived in a plastic bag. Well, half of it arrived in a plastic bag. The bag was supplied by the Royal Mail, and it had an apology printed on it. “Sorry this item reached you in this condition…” and a phone number to contact Customer Services.

The card, in its envelope, had been torn in two. We received the top half. Only the postal gods know what happened to the bottom half. I suppose we should be grateful for what we got. It was foresighted – or prescient – of my cousin to write our address on the top half of the envelope. She must have sensed that it was in for a rough ride. If she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have received anything at all; and we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of reading the greeting:

Happy Ch
and Good L
2011
From your c

On Tuesday, February 1, the postman delivered a Christmas card to our house – a whole one, this time. On the back of the envelope someone had stuck a blue notice that reads as follows:

Royal Mail                                         OE 1065

The sender of this item applied insufficient Airmail postage,
so we diverted it to an alternative service.
This may have caused delay.

The front of the envelope carries a second class stamp, so I suppose it was fair enough to divert it to an alternative service.

But what alternative service?

The postmark reads 11 December. What I want to know is: what alternative service could take 51 days to transport a Christmas card from Bradford, Yorkshire, to the outskirts of Dublin?

As the crow flies, Bradford to Dublin is 185 miles. At that rate, our Christmas card travelled 3.6 miles per day. That’s 0.15 miles (= 266 yards) per hour or one mile every 6.6 hours, 13.3 feet per minute or 2.66 inches per second. (Numbers courtesy of MS-Excel)

The problem is, if a crow (or a pigeon) did fly at that rate, it would fall out of the sky.

Perhaps they sent it by bicycle. Even then, the postman could have delivered mail to all the major cities in Scotland before taking the ferry to Larne and pedalling south to deliver our card.

I can only suppose the service they selected must have taken a detour along the way. Perhaps they sent it on a Mediterranean cruise, a package holiday to the Egyptian Pyramids, or across the Atlantic on a leather boat, like St Brendan the Navigator. Maybe it took a short trip on the Space Shuttle; a couple of dozen orbits around the Earth would have done it.

Nothing is too expensive or too much trouble for Her Majesty’s Royal Mail.

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