The back page of bugger all

It’s my birthday.

All right, it’s not, calm down. Sorry, I know that sent you scrabbling about the back of the cupboard for an uproarious card to go with the gift you obviously picked out weeks ago when you saw it and thought of me, though I’m not sure how you think you’re going to be able to post a full pint glass.

But for when it is my birthday, please, please don’t send me anything in the mail, because it would never be seen again.

Ten years I’ve been living in the same medium-sized, gradually moulding flat in north London. This piece of real estate bears the grand title of ‘Garden Flat’ and is the building’s ground-level floor. No annoying steps to whirl and crash up when one has more sail than ballast. And, unlike the three floors of the building it sits beneath, our one has its own front door.

That no bloody delivery man can find.

Letters, parcels, newspapers, takeaway deliveries – no matter what it is, there’s a nine in ten chance that the hectic delivery person with my goods in their distracted mitts will see the words ‘Garden Flat’ on the address label and ignore them as a hung over commuter resolutely ignores a ‘baby on board’ badge. They will stride to the top door of the building, blind to the sign that says ‘Garden Flat’ with an arrow pointing to the left, and hammer on a communal door with the earnest haste of a herald proclaiming the Portuguese to have taken Cornwall. If they’re answered in the seven seconds they’re allotted to wait, it’s usually by my infuriated neighbour wondering when he signed up to be Pat Clifton to my Major Forbes as he trudges my mail down later on.

Those who have somehow seen ‘Garden Flat’ on the label are presumably under the assumption that, given the communal door is raised a few metres from street level, gardens can now float and my small lawn’s main purpose is to make the name Flymo dangerously literal.

Occasionally someone will follow the sign and begin to wander the path down the side of the building. It’s an open-air stroll to my front door of less than 10 metres from the street, hardly a frightening journey into the unknown, but that doesn’t stop half of them thinking “Well, it can’t fucking be down here, can it?” and reversing to somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t where I live. And I can only assume delivery people are getting either more hassled or more clueless, because it’s getting worse.

A few months ago, I ordered takeaway food at about 7.30pm on a Wednesday night, because I’m lazy and fat and the wheels of your exercise bike will spin on long after it has failed to grant you eternal life I’m afraid. To forcibly underline this, it was a kebab, and to make up the delivery minimum, some chips.

Some 90 minutes after ordering, I phoned the shop. Delivered it mate. Bloody haven’t. Have. Haven’t. Have. Haven’t. Have. Are you calling me a cunt? Are you calling me a cunt? Who did you give it to then? Your son.

Oh, him. I mean, he doesn’t exist, but let’s not allow minor details to stop you explaining how you knocked on the front door and were answered by a little boy who, in a stunning move no-one saw coming, gladly accepted a multicoloured paper bag filled with chips. Eventually the man shouting at me down the phone returned, reclaiming the uneaten food from the people in the top floor flat who’d left it outside their door, not knowing what else to do with it while warming the slipper for their now-tethered, bawling, idiot child. Cheeky bastard of a driver even tried to palm the congealing scran off on me for a fiver. Sold.

But the raging simpleton from ‘Best Kebabs’ is nothing compared to the Guardian newspaper.

My favoured newspaper going ‘digital only’ leaves me with little choice but to try the Guardian, smug and gigantic as it is. Within London they do a delivery service and I opted for a weekend-only affair, allowing me to decide on individual weekdays whether to take out the eyes of fellow Tube passengers as my arms flail about trying to control an enormous collection of staple-free sheets.

In the course of ten attempted deliveries over five weekends, the Guardian’s success rate of finding my front door stands at 30%. Three times on a Saturday they’ve worked it out, and on each of the other seven days I’ve been left reading the back page of bugger all. The most recent Sunday failure was preceded by me emailing them a Google Street View screenshot, complete with arrows pointing at the ‘Garden Flat’ sign, the correct path and which door was manifestly not bloody mine.

Assuming the Guardian have outsourced delivery in this golden age of not my fucking problem mate, how does a company whose sole purpose is to deliver things manage to get it right one day and so staggeringly wrong the next, three times in a row? There are four roads with the same name as mine within about five miles, and though nobody could seriously think anybody in Edmonton reads anything but Nuts, there’s probably some fucker in Crouch End right now enjoying a story about the ballet dancer who pirouetted himself out of the slums of Soweto or some other middle class horror.

For a man not known for hangover avoidance, it is nothing short of a miracle that the only company with a near spotless record of finding my door is Domino’s. The latest development is another, larger sign drilled into the wall along the side passage, which has proved as effective as a ‘No Entry’ sign in Sevastopol. Ordering anything is an exercise in faith, preceding prayer that a half-blind delivery berk will repay that faith by not delivering the fruits of empty commercialism to the mad bint next door who yells at crows.

So while I’m grateful for the many happy returns, if you send a gift don’t expect a thank you letter. My mystical Garden Flat is slowly retreating from the world, and much as I’d appreciate a Mock the Week DVD, a book about football or whatever else it is you’ve unaccountably matched with what you think are my tastes, you might as well address it straight to the Bermuda Triangle or air-mail the money to Malaysia.

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