Thursday, 27 December 2012


We're travelling back to London from Lewes at the end of a whistle-stop Yuletide tour of family and friends. 

The day began in the Premier Inn at Horesham, not Heyward's Heath as I reported last night. It's my Mum's birthday, so we toasted her with mugs of tea whilst I destroyed the light fittings hanging over the breakfast table. I have a tendency to fiddle with things, often until they break, and was horrified tonight to learn that my friend Ellie actually moved valuable things from her front room when she knew I was coming! That's something you do when children are coming to stay! I am horrified. 

We went from Horesham to Brighton and I popped into the Post Office in Kemptown to send a copy of my requiem to someone in Wales. 

As usual, I found an envelope and borrowed a biro from one of the shelves to write the address before heading to the counter. 

A tall, wide man stepped into my path and rather aggressively told me that I'd need to pay for the envelope in the shop attached to the post office, rather than at the post office counter itself. He pointed at a tiny sign by the envelope shelf which made this fact very clear.

I went over to the till, as requested, and was told that the envelope cost 36 pence by a Chinese woman serving me. I was horrified when the aggressive man took one of the biros from the shelf and called over to say; "he used this too, so he'll have to pay for it..."

"I'll do no such thing," I replied, "I borrowed the biro simply to write the address on the envelope. Most post offices have pens for customer use and I couldn't find one."

The woman behind the counter started to ring the cost of the pen into the till. I felt my cheeks flushing with rage, took the CD out of the envelope, thrust it down on the till and said, "you know what? If that's your attitude, I don't want this either."

And left the shop...

There followed the most terrible scene in the street outside the shop, which seemed to draw rather a large audience of passers by. The Chinese woman rushed out and started  screaming at me like an insane fish wife, the aggressive man pushed me and then tried to drag me back into the shop by my shoulders, and only stopped when I screamed at Nathan to start filming him. 

We gave the woman 36p for the envelope, but the man said he wanted twice that amount. It became very clear that he was employed as a heavy and probably would have knocked me out if I'd returned to the shop. 

He ended up by telling us we were barred! Barred from a post office? Whatever next? I've never even been barred from a bar! 

I immediately called the post office to complain and was told in no uncertain terms that because the incident had happened in the shop that the post office was in, rather than an actual post office, there was nothing they could do. 

My argument, of course, was that I'd entered the shop as a post office customer, and frankly, that the post office might want to question renting space in a building being run by a bizarre Chinese woman who employs heavies to threaten the post office staff who cross her. 

The whole incident was frightening and unsavoury and left me shaken for a few hours.

We went from Kemptown to the eastern edge of Brighton, where we called in on Nathan's wonderful Uncle Jimmy and his brilliantly sparky Auntie Maggie. We drank champagne and ate Christmas cake whilst a budgerigar flew around the room, periodically landing on my finger...

As we left the house, Nathan revealed that he'd lost his keys, which we eventually found in the door of the car! Thank God we weren't in London... 

From Brighton, we went to Lewes where we kidnapped Uncle Bill and drove her to Ellie's house in Lindhurst, where we were fed a delicious pasta dish and entertained by her delightful children. Rozina, the eldest, has to be one of the most intelligent children I've ever met. I read her a bedtime story - a factual book (of her choice) about the digestive system - and she explained what atoms and molecules were. She's six and a half. I felt a little like one of those Edwardian gentlemen whose interaction with children was limited to listening to Latin poetry.  

It's been a mightily busy day, and I am exhausted. We've just done a tot up... In the space of four days we've now seen 49 separate family and friends. That's got to be some record! 

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