01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Out of touch 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Out of touch

I got some very good news yesterday. The sat-nav or TomTom belonging to my parents-in-law arrived back safely to them in the post. Phew.

My parents-in-law had generously lent me the sat-nav after I/we asked to borrow it. When we asked, my father-in-law's face flashed concern - my husband pushed the point by saying, 'I think it would be a massive help to us and a safety issue for my wife' so father in law graciously capitulated, though I am sure, not without reservations. My husband and I have a bit of a track record of being forgetful and chaotic.

This year my husband went back to Nairobi earlier than me so I hired a car for my last week, criss-crossing the country with the help of Tom tom. I loved having my own wheels and particularly enjoyed disobeying the sat-nav at times. 'Turn around' he said, then, 'At the first opportunity, turn around' - After that I would blat on and the machine would have to hastily reconfigure the route. It was lots of fun and got me through London, up to Northamptonshire, (straight to John Lewis in Milton Keynes), down to Wiltshire then most importantly back to the no-mans-land of car hire returns at Heathrow airport at 7am on Sunday morning. However, this is when my troubles began.

I had carefully weighed the parcel in advance and got the right stamps. I knew that there was a postbox at Heathrow, so felt confident about popping the sat-nav in - though it would mean that I would not be able to send it 'registered mail'. The problem was that at the airport, I found that the postbox would only take letters. After a bit of pushing and jamming I discovered that there was a metal plate in it to prevent parcels being dropped in. With my 3 children (one of them pushing a heavily laden trolley, me pushing another) we went to information.

'you could get a taxi to Terminal 3, I THINK there is a post office there' she said, adding, 'but I can't guarantee it will be open.'
'No Time' I said,
'Try excess baggage' she said, 'they have a courier service'

I went to excess baggage,
'it will cost you £80' the unconcerned man said. I tutted.
'can't you just take it to the nearest postbox for me?'
'no' came the reply. He was busy plastic wrapping suitcases for another more compliant customer.

Next I tried the Taxi desk.
'well, you could try to ask one of our drivers to do it' the man said, 'but they will probably say no.'

Hell I thought. By this time, my eldest daughter who was pushing the second heavy trolley said,
'Mum, do we have to worry about this now? Can't we just get on the plane please?'
I ignored her, instead resolutely saying, 'this way' and we went back out of the automatic doors heading for the taxi rank.

Halfway between the double doors, my eldest daughter ran over my youngest and a couple of suitcases fell off. The screams of my 4 year old brought about a turning point.

A sympathetic construction worker in a hard hat and luminous jacket (presumably working on Terminal 4's current refurbishment program) stopped to try to help.
'Where are you going?' he fatefully asked - and I told him the whole story - then foisted the parcel on him.
'I don't suppose that you could post this for me could you?' I explained what was inside.
'But, for all you know I could just keep this?' he said,
'I know, but I'm sure you won't' I replied. I was beginning to look like an unglued mother.

He doubtfully took it and I walked away with a million thank yous. We got in the lift up to departures then joined the Kenya Airways queue. A few minutes later my new best friend was back.
'I'm sorry,' he said, 'I just can't take this.'
'Oh no!' I exclaimed.
'It's just that it's an electronic device, I don't really know what's in here and if it's found in my locker I could get in an awful lot of trouble.'
'I understand,' I said, 'but I could open it and show you couldn't I?'
before he could reply I was unravelling the parcel and pulling out the sat-nav -
'you see, that's all that is inside'
'I don't know' he said again.
By this time I was bullying the poor man.
'You've seen it now - I'm sure it will be fine.'

He walked away and I had sort of made sure he still had the parcel with him. I felt a bit sick about being so mean, but felt I didn't really have another option.

When I got on the plane me husband wrote a text message saying don't worry, just bring the parcel with you and we can give it to a friend in Nairobi who is going to England in a few days.

When we got home, my friend said to me, 'you really have lived abroad for too long. I can't believe you begged a complete stranger in Heathrow to take a parcel containing an electronic device that for all he knew could have been a bomb.' Oh dear I thought.

It's true. We have been away too long. We went to a very good friend's christening and I was the only one wearing a shiny dress that was certainly more 'London wedding' than 'country christening'. A Diane von Furstenburg jersey wrap dress would have been more fitting (not that I have one). I even heard a fellow godparent in the church say - 'Oh, so you want me to sit next to the one in the smart dress'. I think I blushed. After the service I hastily threw on a denim jacket to tone down the look (I had already discarded the shiny diamante necklace after the first 5 minutes, begging my daughter to loan me her rather more conservative necklace!). My husband was having a parallel panic about his new slip-on shoes being too 'spivvy' and pointy compared to the 'Churches' lace-ups that everyone else was wearing. Help, we are in the fashion wilderness and can never go back!

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