The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

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Victory at post office was worth waiting for

I got in a right pickle in the post office, where I managed to create a scene after an attempt to do a good deed backfired in quite spectacular fashion.

There were five or six people queuing when I entered the premises.

At the front, being served, was a gentleman getting some euros, presumably for - call me Sherlock Holmes here - a forthcoming holiday

He was a grown man, in his late 40s I’d say, and yet his brain must have been about the size of a small garden pea, for he was telling the woman behind the counter that normal euros were no good - he was going to Germany so he needed German euros.

Speaking slowly and carefully, as if addressing a particularly groggy patient waking after heart surgery, she explained to him that the euro is used throughout the whole of Europe. Hence why it’s called the euro. Clue’s in the name.

Yet astonishingly - despite the fact the euro has been in circulation since 1999, so you’d have thought he’d have grasped the concept by now - he didn’t understand.

He sort of stared at her puzzled, and protested “But how can Germany have the same currency as the rest of Europe? They’ll lose their national identity.”

Again post office woman attempted to explain but he was having none of it.

It was quite clear by this point that he was - and I don’t think I’m being harsh here - thick, and I think I speak for everyone in what was by now quite a lengthy queue that we very much wanted to step forward one by one and, in the nicest possible way, take turns punching him in the face.

While all this was happening a harassed-looking woman entered and announced loudly, to no one in particular, that she had come for a passport application form.

Now I know from a previous trip that these forms are no longer stacked in the corner like they used to be and that you have to ask for one behind the counter, a fact I relayed to the woman.

Her face crumpled and she said “oh no, I’m in a rush, I’m going to be late picking up my two-year-old from nursery.”

So, always one to do a good turn – and not influenced in any way by the fact she was blonde-haired and incredibly attractive - I said ‘well if that’s all you need, you can go in front of me.’

I hoped, in response to this stunning display of chivalry and selflessness, she might scribble out her phone number and suggest dinner, but she didn’t, instead simply saying “thanks” and stepping in front of me.

Which was fine. However, what I wasn’t aware of was that someone else had, unseen to me, since joined the queue and immediately after giving blonde-haired woman permission to jump in, I heard from behind a loud exhalation of breath and a very audible tut.

I turned to see a man, about 70 with a large tuft of hair protruding from each nostril, shaking his head and staring at me with such venom it was as if I’d just spat in his face and used a Brillo pad to wipe it in.

“It would’ve been nice,” he said, sounding not unlike my old headmaster, “if you had consulted the rest of the queue before allowing someone to push in.”

‘I’m awfully sorry,’ I said, ‘but I didn’t realise you were there and this lady is on her way to collect her young child from nursery and only requires a passport application form.’

“Well, I’ve only got three stamps to buy so how about you let me through too?” he said.

There was suddenly a kind of awkward silence throughout the post office. Even the chap at the front had broken off from wandering loudly why the Swedes didn’t use Swedish euros and turned to see what was going on.

Now the woman I’d allowed to push in was feeling uncomfortable and turned to apologise to the older man. “I’m sorry, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have jumped in the queue,” she said.

Unbelievably the old man smiled at her, as if she were blameless, and said, “don’t you worry sweet, it’s not your fault, it’s him”, and at this point raised his finger and jabbed it in my direction, as if poking an imaginary doorbell.

The woman was still embarrassed though and so she voluntarily trudged to the back of the queue, and then we all stood in silence.

Eventually - after the thicko at the front finally accepted that his euros would be fine to use in Germany and, funnily enough, any other European country - the queue began moving and eventually I got served.

I ordered what i’d gone in there for - a book of 10 first class stamps - and then, in a moment of inspiration, added, ‘and a passport application form too, please’.

On receiving it, I turned, reached around the chap behind me, and handed it to the woman, who gave me a big smile.

Satisfyingly, he looked furious and I nodded curtly in his direction as I departed.

As trips to the post office go, it was perhaps the best I’ve ever had.

Relatives are gone but not

forgotten

We were visiting my sister the other day when Mrs Canavan happened to idly gaze at the calendar on the wall.

What caught here eye, under July 3, was, in my sister’s handwriting, ‘Grandad Joe’s birthday - 122’.

“Erm, didn’t your grandad die 38 years ago?” Mrs Canavan said to me in a quiet voice.

She’s right - he did. “Why would you keep a record of how old a dead relative would be now had they lived?” she asked.

I pondered this and couldn’t really think of a retort. I mean where do you draw the line? Would my sister put ‘Great great great grandad Harold - 346-years-old today’ on her calendar? Probably not.

However, maybe it’s a family thing because I realised I did the same with my dad, who died four years ago. I mark his birthday on our calendar, and the age he would have been, but this is kind of irrelevant when you think about it. Most likely we do it because it just gives us some small crumb of comfort and to remember those close to us no longer here.

My sister’s calendar, however, is no match for my mum’s.

My mother has to actually buy two calendars - both of which are pinned to the door of the toilet (the place where she spends the majority of her time) - to fit all her engagements in.

She makes a note of absolutely everything. For example, under August 13 this is her genuine handwritten entry: ‘Brenda 71. Theatre with Janet and Barbara 7.30pm. Bridge club outing to Ramsbottom. Margaret having breast reduction operation - buy get well soon card’.

Bonkers. But good luck to Margaret - hope all goes well.