Saturday, March 16, 2013

That Touch of Mink

I thought last week was bad, but this one has been far worse, with one email after another from customers asking where their books are. It has made me realise that however hard you work, if you sell on the internet you can be completely buggered by the postal network. 

I could tell from the emails that some people were very angry. As one person wrote, "How hard is it to put a book in an envelope and post it?" Fortunately, Mark Twain's advice - "When in doubt, tell the truth" - has paid off. Almost every customer has been extremely patient and sympathetic, once they've realised what I've been up against.

In addition to writing apologetic emails to people, I also had to take a van up to Berkshire to collect some stock. It's usually a straightforward journey, but this time my SatNav had a psychotic episode and took me on a terrifying drive along some narrow, snow-bound country lanes. I think it's trying to kill me.

To make things worse, someone had changed the settings so that every traffic direction was given in a Dalek voice. The amusement value of hearing "IN 300 YARDS, TURN LEFT...HUMAN" quickly wore very thin.

Fortunately, I had some CDs of Radio Four podcasts to relieve the tedium of driving along a motorway being shouted at by a Dalek, including a fascinating Desert Island Discs with Jill Balcon - now better known as the mother of Daniel Day Lewis. She was nearly 80 when the programme was recorded, but had the voice and attitude of someone in their 50s, speaking with a great passion and self-effacing humour about her extraordinary life. What a woman.

In truth it was nice to get away from the farm. I have worked in a few unusual places, but never anywhere where it snows indoors. I suppose there must be a hole in the roof, but I can't see where.

Sometimes a robin enters the barn  and sings sweetly. Then it ruins everything by defecating on the books and computers. How many people have to wipe bird droppings off their PC monitor and keyboard  before they can start work?

The week reached a grand finale yesterday, with a fight between a mink and a rat. The mink seemed to have the upper hand, even though it was barely larger than the rat. Then we made the mistake of getting too close and for a second, the mink lost its grip. The rat quickly ran underneath a table and found a small hole near a pile of boxes. Undeterred, the mink strutted around the barn as if it owned the place, oblivious to the presence of four humans. Eventually it got bored and decided to lie in wait under some wheelie bins.

It was all very odd. At the time, we had no idea that we were looking at a mink, but Google images quickly identified the strange, dark, ferret-like creature: 
Next week I will be dealing with a rat infestation, writing some more apologies and getting to grips with a complicated new postal system. At some point I may even have time to look at some books, like this one:

 But I wouldn't bank on it.


Catherine said...

How dire. You need to borrow a couple of terriers for a while to see off the rats. And why not cover your PC with a plastic decorating sheet to protect it from bird crap? Are you still thinking of getting a Border Terrier. Hope the postal problem sorts itself out very soon.

Canadian Chickadee said...

I don't know, Steerforth, sometimes it just seems as if Karma has gone berserk. Just like your Sat-Nav. There's really not much you can do except try to live through it. Grin and bear it, as it were.

A terrier might be a good idea to get rid of the rats, though. A friend got a terrier when a neighbour moved and couldn't take the dog to her new digs. The terrier soon took care of the rats in my friend's house -- occupants she wasn't aware she had.

Steerforth said...

Catherine - Luckily, there are a couple of terriers on the farm who are champing at the bit to hunt for rats. Like the best detective stories, I'm giving the mink 48 hours to solve the case before I call in the dogs.

Carol - I moan, but actually it's still a lot better than being in an air-conditioned office where people have a succession of meetings about things that don't matter at all. But sometimes I do feel that I've paid a high price for my freedom.

Rog said...

I expect Mr Prout slipped away before the powers that be caught up with him.

You certainly see more nature in the raw than you would have done in a High Street bookshop. Well, in most areas of the Country certainly.

Steerforth said...

Rog - Being a townie, I'm surprised by just how much 'nature' there still is! It has been an eye-opener. I can see why my landlord has vats of toxic chemicals.

Re: Mr Prout - in those days he would have probably been given a commendation for maintaining strict discipline.

Canadian Chickadee said...

I'm sure there are times when you wish things were different. We all do, because all life involves trade-offs. I sometimes miss my old job, but if I still had it, I wouldn't be sitting and playing on the computer right now. I'd have missed a lot of fascinating blog posts and wouldn't have read some very interesting books. So I think in the long run, this is better!

Steerforth said...

Carol - I think I miss my old job - managing a bookshop for Ottakar's - because I met so many lovely people. I find the isolation of my current situation quite difficult, but it's still preferable to working for the sort of people who took over Waterstones, when it was owned by HMV.

Ottakar's was fun. Every meeting ended in a drinking session and I had some wonderful conversations with people I barely knew. That's the great thing about work - it forces you to socialise with people you wouldn't choose to mix with and, more often than not, provides a pleasant surprise. I crave independence but also miss being part of a large organisation.

I suppose there's no pleasing some people.