These are the second and third parcels I have now consigned to Angola using normal parcel post (as opposed to courier firms) and I must say, the system seems to work. This being Angola, though, when the Post Office employee rang Marcia last Thursday to alert her to the shipment's arrival, they asked her not to bother coming to pick them up the next day as, it being a Friday, they didn't feel like working so the following Monday would be more convenient for them. It was pretty civil of them to phone.
Looking at the picture of the shipment, the scars of battle very evident, you may wonder why two bicycles should each require such a very large box. Oddly enough, a normal bicycle sized box of around 125 x 75 x 30 cms (0.28 cubic metres) exceeds the maximum allowed dimensions for international parcel post so would cost more like 600 Euros each (the price I was quoted by Lufthansa, you may recall). If, however, the 'bikes were repacked into a box measuring 120 x 60 x 60 (0.43 cubic metres) they would fall within the maximum allowed dimensions and cost only 90 Euros each. So nearly twice the cubic volume for a seventh of the price. DHL is owned by Deutsche Post and the boxes came in on Lufthansa. No bastard demanding over 600 Euros a box from me at DHL or Lufthansa told me about the very cheap and just as secure alternative operated by the same companies across the same infrastructure. I had to find that out for myself. Is it just as secure? You bet; just like a DHL Express shipment, you can track it online.
'I don't even know which box the book is in!' I said.
'It's in that one,' said Marcia pointing to the less damaged box.
'How do you know?'
''Cos I saw it when Customs inspected the contents!'
'If you saw it when customs opened the box, Marcia, why didn't you take it out there and then?'
You will note from the white 'Alfandega' sticky tape that Customs opened the boxes up side down. I would like to think that these cunning revenue men supposed that if any contraband was concealed within, it would be at the bottom so best go in that way, but I suspect it was because they were pissed off with me for already having looked up the tariff code and told them how much I should be paying, eliminating a potential private revenue stream for them.
This is the first book I have bought Marcia that's in Portuguese. The others have been in English and they have improved her command of that language no end. In addition, reading has provoked in her a desire to occasionally converse rather than spend the evening watching soaps, which makes a delightful change, Conversations are sometimes bloody bizarre (how she can reconcile her faith with a belief in African magic escapes me) but anything is better than 'Paixão Proibida'. The other day she asked me if the next book I bought her could be in Dutch.
Dutch? Marcia studied in Belgium, the bit that doesn't speak French.
'But Marcia, your English is better than your Flemish, Dutch is about as useful as Afrikaans.'
'How can you say that?' she retorted, 'you saw when we had problems at Brussels airport and I explained everything to the Ambassador and he called the head of Brussels Airlines and sorted it out!'
This was true, I did have a problem at Brussels airport when they refused to board Dominic because he did not have an Angolan entry visa in his UK passport. I had been under the misapprehension that his Angolan passport granted sufficient authority to enter Angola and had been unable to conceal my disappointment when the nice Belgians pointed my stupidity out to me.
'Marcia, that was the French Ambassador, you were speaking French,'
'Oh yes. But it proves I am good at languages!'
It proves you can bloody terrify Ambassadors, I thought.
I opened up the boxes, retrieved her book and gave it to her. I resisted the temptation to dive straight in and assemble the 'bikes. Having spread the bits out to evaluate what was there and, more importantly, what might be missing (nothing, as far as I could tell), the 'bike parts are now stored safely inside the cottage.
As I was stacking the bits neatly Marcia looked up from reading the fly leaf of her book.
'Do you know that Dan Brown is the all time best selling author?' she announced.'
'And malaria is the all time killer,' I replied. 'I know which I'd rather take my chances with.'