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Have Stamp Tweezers, Will Travel.....

I often travel both within and outside of the UK. When the situation demands I will visit a valuable stamp collection wherever it is and like most travellers I have my trusted routines. I can pack a small case in minutes and not leave anything out apart from toothpaste. I have a problem remembering to pack toothpaste, I have no idea why.

For this seasoned traveller things usually tend to go smoothly but when they don’t I can misquote Shakespeare’s Claudius and say “When problems come, they come not as single spies but in battalions” and so it was last week which began simply enough, with an evening drive 150 miles south. The rush hour(s) traffic was heavy so I parked at a motorway service station to grab a bite to eat and let the worst of the traffic subside.

It was 3 hours later having reached my destination that I discovered a fellow driver had smashed into my rear bumper in that dark service station car park…

Fortunately the gentleman I met the next morning was charming and having already met with several dealers and auctioneers decided he preferred to sell his beloved collection in one transaction, so I returned to Knutsford with a collection in 30 albums and the rear quarter of my car flapping in the air.

A few days later I was travelling through Manchester Airport on my way to Europe. I made a schoolboy error and left a pair of stamp tweezers in my bag. I was only travelling with hand luggage so I should have left them at home; as I’m going to see a stamp collection there are always tweezers which can be borrowed.

This always goes the same way, after a long wait I am asked to open my bag and I quickly explain what it is that they are probably looking at on their screen. The security officer then takes my long metal tweezers and wanders off looking for a supervisor who inevitably shrugs and they are given back to me. There is no excuse, I travel all the time and feel badly for the other travellers I’m holding up.

The plane is delayed by 3 hours, that’s over twice the time the flight is supposed to last and I don’t arrive at my hotel until almost midnight.

Still, tomorrow is another day and I have a pleasant meeting with a collector at his office who also wants to sell his family stamp collection. By late afternoon everything is agreed and the albums are packed into several boxes awaiting a courier to collect them. I must leave as I have to meet a couple for dinner and I’m cutting it fine.

I stride out of the building and walk along a wide, empty street. As I’m travelling light I am wearing everything I brought with me, namely one pair of trousers, one pair of (suede) shoes and one jacket. It is cold and damp, the clouds seem low and grey but something has caught my eye. Something is moving in the air above me… something whiter than the cloud about it.

It is so large and high up I have time to consider several things: I can’t see a bird but might that be bird dung on its way to earth? No it can’t be, there’s too much of it. If it was bird guano then the chances of it hitting me are slim to say the least. If it did hit me these are my only clothes and I’m on my way to a nice restaurant…

A huge quantity of bird droppings hit me. My hair, jacket, trousers, shoes and by some incredible luck it also finds an open jacket pocket and the only gap in my otherwise zipped- shut briefcase. At that moment I would have paid good money for a shotgun but my gigantic mystery assailant is long gone and probably above the clouds anyway. The way my luck is running I’d have shot down an aircraft instead.

Only slightly late I arrive at the restaurant rather damp and scrubbed. I now have a sense of how things are going so I refuse all seafood for fear of being poisoned and the evening passes without further incident. I am shown several rare stamps which I gratefully take for our auctions having agreed the commission fees, so I gingerly slide them into a droppings- free compartment in my briefcase.

The next morning I get on the wrong train and by the time I realise my mistake I must take a much longer circuitous route back to the airport. The travel card I had charged with money when I arrived didn’t have enough funds left on it to complete these surprise extra kilometres and the whole event has turned into a stressful race against time. Apparently I’m short by just a couple of Euros and I discover this because a ticket inspector gets on and with only a few minutes before I’m due to arrive at my station I am for the first time in my life subjected to an on-the-spot fine.

I make it back to Manchester Airport without further incident although the automated passport- reading machine won’t read mine and I’m released from the Perspex holding pen by a bored official who can see I’m about to start crying. Although looking very sorry for itself my car does not break down or burst into flames and I arrive home safely albeit somewhat nervous about what might happen next.

Well, that was all several days ago and nothing else has happened. The boxes arrived safely from Europe (I’m always delighted by how safe these shipments are. I’ve been doing this since before well- known companies offered good global delivery services and the state- run postal authorities were not forced to compete) and I have a few weeks at the office. Hopefully whatever travelling curse had alighted on me will have passed by the time I pack my case again…

Vincent

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