Seven minutes to spare

When going on a courier run we usually leave bright and early to give us the best chance of meeting the deadline in case of train delays. Today, however, there is no point as the document is not expected to reach us until around 10:30.

Paddington Station
Paddington Station

We will make our way to Paddington for about 9:30, have breakfast there and wait for a motorcycle courier to bring us the package. As soon as we have it, we can take the next train to our destination, Bristol. The deadline is 2 pm so we should meet it by a comfortable margin, provided the trains are running normally.

Fag Alley (Paddington Station)
Fag Alley (Paddington Station)

At Paddington we had breakfast and settled down to wait. We were expecting the package at about 10:30 but hoped it might be sooner. We checked train times and made sure that the motorcycle courier would be allowed down “Fag Alley” – as we call the Praed Street entrance because all the smokers gather there – to meet us as access is restricted to deliveries.

10:30 came and went without any sign of the courier. Trains to Bristol leave every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. At 10:50 Tigger phoned base and was told the courier was in Praed Street, so we walked on up but he was no where to be seen. Something was obviously awry.

By 11:16, there was still no courier. Then came a phone call. The courier service had cocked up. First, although a bike had been ordered explicitly, they had sent a van, which is a much slower method of transport at rush hour, and second, the courier had gone to Eastbourne Terrace and waited there when the instructions had been to meet us in “Fag Alley”. This held us up and put the trip in jeopardy.

The van finally reached us but by now we were seriously late. We dashed to platform 5 and boarded the 11:30 with minutes to spare.

Until we received the package, we had no idea of the address to which it is to be delivered so we could not check how far it is from the station or the route to take. We will have to rely on the taxi to get us to the right place and on time.

Bristol Temple Meads
Bristol Temple Meads

The train journey to Bristol takes about an hour and 45 minutes. Because the courier reached us so late and we had to take the 11:30, we would not arrive at Temple Meads until about 1:15 for a deadline at 2 pm. Moreover, Tigger knew from previous runs that the delivery address was well out of town. Our schedule was beginning to look tight though we consoled ourselves with the thought that the taxi driver would know his way around and get us there in time.

As the train pulled into Temple Meads, we were ready at the door. As soon as the door-release light came on, we piled out and hurried to the exit. As I emerged, a taxi drew up at the kerb and I took it. The driver was cheerful, chatty soul. We told him the address. He asked us to repeat it. We did. “Where’s that? he asked. Our hearts sank.

Castle Park
Castle Park

While driving, he took out his satnav and installed it but it soon turned out to be useless. We were making slow progress through the city traffic and we were conscious of time ticking away.

Tigger knew the address would be somewhere in the business park so the driver set off in that direction. When we arrived, he began to search for our target. We tried the first roadway but it wasn’t there. “It must be the next one,” he assured us. It wasn’t.

“OK, then it’s got to be the third entrance.” Wrong; it wasn’t there either.

The Market
The Market

In sheer desperation, we asked a passer-by. He told us to to go back down the road, turn left and turn left again, and it would be there. We followed instructions but it wasn’t the enterprise we were looking for.

By now I was feeling rather stressed and even the normally calm Tigger was admitting that she was beginning to worry.

Again we asked a passer-by and he seemed to know what we were looking for. According to his description, it was right at the other end of the business park.

Decoration, Market Hall
Decoration, Market Hall

Off we went again, threading through traffic, held up periodically by lights. Finally we reached what seemed to be the place. It was a large complex and we followed the signs for “Deliveries” as that was the only sign that seemed at all relevant to our mission.

We fetched up in front of locked gates with an intercom. By now we had only minutes to the deadline. The driver pressed the intercom button and explained why we were here. We could hear background noise but no coherent response. We waited as precious minutes ticked away.

Then we saw a man approaching, dressed in navy blue uniform and carrying a walkie-talkie. He came out to us and we again explained why we were there and wished to enter.

Market Door Knocker
Market Door Knocker

He repeated our words uncomprehendingly. My heart sank. It looked as if we were going to fail, despite being within striking distance.

Suddenly, a light seemed to go on in the man’s brain: “Oh, yes. I had one of those this morning.” He clicked the walkie-talkie. “Bill… They’ve got a tender. Let ’em in. Bill…? Bill…? Are you there…?”

He turned and walked back the way he had come, having told us where we should go. The gate began to swing open but with agonizing slowness.

Clock, Christ Church
Clock, Christ Church

We drove down to the reception area. I shot out of the car and ran to the door. “Automatic Door” said the label but the door did not budge. I ran to the next but it too was locked.

The man with the walkie-talkie appeared inside. He pressed a button and the door opened. He went and stood behind the desk and waited. We gave him the envelope and he said he would see it to its destination. He was unable to give us a receipt so we had to take his assertion on trust.

We went outside and Tigger phoned base to let them know we had delivered the package with 7 minutes to spare.


The taxi took us back to the town centre. The bill was £36. We didn’t ask how much of that was down to the driver not knowing the address and taking us on an excursion. We were too relieved that we had just scraped inside the deadline and got the job done despite the worst that couriers and lost taxi drivers with useless satnavs could do to us.

We remembered that on our last visit we had lunched at La Grotta, an Italian restaurant, and decided to go there again. We soon found it and marched triumphantly in, looking forward to relaxing over a good lunch in agreeable surroundings.

“Sorry,” said the waiter, “we are now closed.”

That somehow fitted the tone of the day perfectly.

Zak's Cafe
Zak’s Cafe

We went on a brief tour of the town and entered the market where we found Zak’s Cafe and had lunch there.

We had a look around the market and nearby streets. By now, the temperature was beginning to fall after the comparative warmth of the earlier part of the day so we took a bus to the station and arrived in time to catch the 17:00 to Paddington.

We enjoy our days out and our courier runs and we enjoyed this one as well, once the package had been safely delivered and the stress had dissipated. Nonetheless, I hope we don’t have one quite like this, at least for a while.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Seven minutes to spare

  1. Villager says:

    I really like the look of the market hall.

    West Yorkshire has some wonderful indoor markets………..and it pains me to say, Lancashire as well.

    Our own North Yorkshire is not noted for such vibrant markets.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    We have seen quite a few markets on our travels, both indoor and outdoor. The indoor ones are often housed in beautiful buildings, showing how important they must once have been considered.

    As one who spent 6 years in Sheffield at university and feels that it was there that I left childhood and entered adulthood, I have a fondness for all things Yorkshire.

    On the other hand, my mother came from St Helens in Lancashire, so I feel I have a foot in both camps, so to speak.

    Even today, when I have spent most of my life in the Southeast, people still sometimes say to me “You’re from up North, aren’t you?”, something I regard as a compliment.

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