Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under
Return To Sender
I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?
I now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago.
So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.
What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?
One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.
What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.
And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.
And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way
Kate Doswell, 15/07/2018.