A story

14 May 2019

It was early evening in late April. So it was still light. I was walking my dog around the streets near our home. A car ahead of me swung round rather fast at a T-junction. It then drew alongside me and the passenger window was wound down.

The driver was clearly very anxious and holding what looked like a receipt, he leaned across and passed the paper to me and sure enough he was looking for an address to deliver a Chinese takeaway. ‘Please, please help me,’ he said ‘I cannot find!’

The man spoke with an Eastern European accent and he was clearly very agitated. He had been searching for an address which he was not able to find anywhere. Could I help him? I took out my mobile phone and opened up Google Maps. I identified the street and could see that it would be very lenghty directions that I would have to give him: second right, first left, straight on for 100 yards to the T-junction, left again etc. Even if we were able to speak fluently in each other’s language it would have been complicated. I suggested I get in next to him in the passenger seat and I could direct him from there.

Without hesitation the door was opened, the food and the dog were put on the back seat whilst I took up position in the passenger seat: second right, first left, straight on for 100 yards to the T-junction, left again etc into a cul-de-sac. I expected to see Southwold Mews right ahead of me. But it wasn’t there. I looked at the map again it should be right where we were, but it wasn’t. We both jumped out of the car and I knocked on one of the house doors. No one in. I knocked on a second and a third; meanwhile the delivery driver was getting even more agitated, sweat pouring from his forehead.

Eventually a man came to the third door I had called at and said that he’d never heard of Southwold Mews. Then his wife hearing the address came dashing into the hall and said she knew where it was: ‘Go back the way you have come,’ she said ‘third left, second right, at the traffic lights turn left and it’s the second left. It’s actually right behind our house, at the bottom of our garden, but you can only get to it via the main road’.

This would have meant a long journey and even more complicated for my new-found Polish friend. I asked how I could possibly make myself known to the house behind her. She pointed me down a passageway alongside her garden, so I raced down it and I stood stretching to see over the fence shouting ‘Hello! Food delivery!’ Eventually someone came out and asked if he could help me. I said that we had a delivery and was he expecting a takeway. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘is it a burger?’ Looking at the driver he said that it was a Chinese. ‘Chinese? Ah that’s not for me,’ responded the guy. He was about to go back into his house when I asked if he was number 2? He said, ‘No, it’s next door.’ I suggested that he knock on the door and tell the person to come to the fence. Which he eventually did and the occupant of number 2, the intended recipient of the Chinese takeaway, came and stood at his door, some 30 yards from me, in his pyjamas and bare feet. He looked incredulous when I suggested that he received his Chinese takeaway over the fence. But receive it he did, without a thank you and without any expression of appreciation whatsoever.

The delivery man and I set off again after he had offered me a lift home.

He pulled up just a few yards from my drive and as I got out he picked up a £1 coin from the passenger seat where I been sitting. ‘Is this yours or mine?’ he asked. I said ‘I think it’s mine but you have it because he should have given you a tip.’

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