Does the modern world move quicker?
When I was working on Jane Harrison and reading her letters from the end of the nineteenth century, I was struck by how often the post was collected and delivered then: three or four times a day. Harrison would put an invitation to dinner in the post in the morning and have the answer by mid afternoon.
And it struck me that communication wasnt always any quicker now. OK, electronic assistance helps, and sometimes one can exchange ten emails in as many minutes. But when it come to getting a package from A to B within the UK, you can still be stuck at an even slower delivery rate than 100 or for matter 20 years ago -- as I've just discovered.
I am, let me confess (and you'll hear more later), making another little tv offering in Italy, and I needed to get a matching top for the Toast loopback sweater tunic (Black, size 14) that I intend to wear on screen -- so I wasn't committed to recycling the same one all the time. I'd rather assumed that I would be able to pick an extra one up at Toast in Islington, but they only had blue in size 14. So stuck in London on Thursday, I asked the husband to order one online by the quickest delivery possible. We were leaving on Sunday -- and it seemed to me that something ordered on Thursday afternoon, at £8.95 shipping, really ought to get to Cambridge by Saturday.
(To be fair to Toast, I hadnt read the small print)
By Saturday morning, having travelled from Bristol to Castle Donington, the sweater tunic had arrived in the DHL Cambridge delivery office (which is of course not in Cambridge, but in Papworth Everard), so I rang up to find that it would not be delivered (as no one had asked for a Saturday delivery -- I didnt actually have the option!), but that the office was open. So I beetled round to pick it up, confident that at rather considerable effort the problem had been solved.
No such luck. The damn thing had presumably arrived, but they don't sort the mail on a Saturday! Only two of them there said the slightly fierce lady...it will be delivered on Monday.
At this point I reflected that if the husband had perhaps been able to do the old fashioned thing and phone up, and if it had been actioned fairly speedily and put in the first class post on Friday morning, there is every reason to hope that it would have arrived by Saturday, probably cheaper.
Ironically, there was another parcel I wanted to take to Italy with me, also languishing unsorted in the DHL office; this time an old book. It's a nice late nineteeth century archaeological text, not available so far as I could see in the UK except as Print on Demand. So I started, in reasonable time, that way. Don't! You might be able to read the text, but PoD had turned the pictures into a gloomy fudge. For my purposes a waste of money.
When that didn't work out, I was pushed. I found a copy of the book in a second hand shop in Michigan, but they didn't do express courier delivery, but agreed that if I arranged the courier my end they would pack it up and give it to the collector. This meant opening a DHL account (done, I have to say, very speedily and efficiently: thank you Bobby at DHL!), and then requesting an import.
Now I realise that at this point the Jane Harrison comparison breaks down rather. If she had wanted a book from America, she'd have been waiting weeks. But all the same, once it had zoomed across the Atlantic, leaving Michigan on Thursday morning, going via Cincinnati to dear old Castle Donington, and then by the same truck to Cambridge as my other one ... you'd have thought they might have had staff to sort it!
For this one, I guess I COULD have ticked the box for Saturday delivery, which presumably would have given it fast-track sorting -- but I'm a bit new to this game. Will learn for next time.
(The postscript is that both these articles were brought out to Italy be a friend coming a few days later.. a more old fashioned form of delivery!)