We may be eating Christmas lunch off the floor…

Damian Clarke
Dec 20, 2019 · 6 min read

I called the movers who are handling the English delivery of our furniture, which has been in storage, somewhere in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, for over two years.

“Slack Haulage International Transport, Chris speaking.”

“It’s Damian Albion calling. I wonder if you have any idea of the delivery date for our stuff? We’re hoping to get it before Christmas.”

“I know who you are. I received your letter for Customs and Excise and your goods have been released and are here in the warehouse.”

“Great, so are you still on track for the eighteenth — we’d like to get the furniture before Christmas?”

An impenetrable wall of shipping containers.
An impenetrable wall of shipping containers.
Our furniture is in here, somewhere (Photo by Guillaume Bolduc on Unsplash)

“Well, that’s unlikely. There were 10 consignments in your container, and there are 10 working days before Christmas. We’ll get it to you when we have a truck in your area.”

[At this point, I asked myself how many of the 10 consignments of expats’ furniture in a container would not be going to London.]

“Well we were given that impression that it would be before Christmas — around the eighteenth, actually.”

“Whoever gave you that impression shouldn’t have.”

“You did! In the same letter where you asked for the extra information for Customs and Excise, you said the boat would dock on the 2nd and you would be delivering the furniture around the eighteenth.”

“It’s in the hands of logistics and it could be delivered any time between now and the second week of January. And before you ask, logistics don’t take calls from the public.”

“Well please bear in mind that we would like our stuff before Christmas because you are carrying the table we need to eat our Christmas dinner off.”

“Yeah, well that’s your prerogative, isn’t it.”

I was reluctant to talk to SHIT after that, so Mrs Albion — who had taken a rare day off work to be at home on the eighteenth — tried her hand.

The conversation was almost identical.

So we rang the mover in Australia who had been storing our goods for over two years, and was quite cooperative, apologetic about SHIT’s attitude, and said that they would do what they could — which amounted to sending an email to SHIT, asking them most politely to pull their fingers out.

Not much happened, and it dawned on us that we may not have our furniture in time for Christmas.

Finally we put our negotiating hats on and decided to tackle the problem the British way — by making it harder to get it wrong than to get it right. Over the years we have fallen into a sort of relay-race pattern for dealing with stuff like this. I will give the example as if I start the running, but really we swap roles depending on who starts first:

  1. I make the initial inquiry, get rebuffed and we go back and forth for a while with increasing assertiveness until I get sick of it, and Mrs Albion, who has been seething in the background and is ready to explode.
  2. Mrs Albion explodes, giving the obstructive person the impression that while they thought I was being very difficult, I was actually protecting them from Mrs Albion, who then deals with the problem until she reaches an impasse and hands the baton back to me
  3. I try to be nice one more time then, if they don’t play ball with us, I stick the bat up their arse.

The only real variation to this pattern is that sometimes, in the course of events, the obstructive person will be dismissive towards Mrs Albion, or will try to intimidate her.

I enjoy this variation. When I see it coming I feel the same excitement as when I read the label on a firecracker that says, “Light the touch paper and stand well back.”

You see, Mrs Albion holds a relatively senior position in The City. You know those guys you see on trading floors in movies — the guys shouting “Buy, buy BUY. No, hang on, fuck-it, sell, SELL!” into the phone — the guys who break their phone handsets over the desk when a trade goes against them?

She has made men like that cry.

But after her conversation with Chris, the non-mover and shaker at SHIT, she didn’t want to talk to him again either.

You will notice that we had now arrived at stage three of our relay. The bit with the bat.

For anyone familiar with the seedier side of internet pornography, sticking a bat up someone’s arse, whether metaphorically or literally, is not easy. It requires some preparation behind the scenes — some lubrication, some preparation, and a little force:

I called the mover in Australia and reminded them that we had paid for the move (many thousands of Australian dollars) by credit card. And that if SHIT were not able to deliver to us before Christmas, we would be getting a truck of our own and collecting the goods from their warehouse. We would then rescind the payment to them — very easy with a credit card payment, especially when it’s the card-issuing bank that paid for the move— and we would repay the money minus our costs at this end.

Because there is no point making a threat that you’re not willing to go through with, I engaged some key members the Aussie Mafia and their largest (7.5 tonne) van, and arranged to meet them at SHIT’s depot.

I then sent this email.

From: Damian Albion []
Sent: 18 December 2006 12:43
To: Chris Notverygoodmover []
Subject: Consignment for OurAlbion


If your logistics people can’t get the furniture here this week, I will be there, with a van, at 9.30am on Friday to collect it.

Please confirm that the goods are located in your warehouse at Xxxxxxxx Xxx, Xxxxxxxx, Xxxxxxshire. If they are in a different warehouse, please give me the address.

If you can see any problem with this arrangement, any problem with us accessing the goods or any problem with your releasing them from your warehouse, please inform me now. If you require any form of identification from me to prove my bona-fides before releasing the goods, please inform me now. If you can foresee any other barriers to us collecting the goods from your warehouse on Friday December 22, please inform me now.

And, to correct what you said to Mrs Albion this morning, it was you who gave us the expectation of receiving the goods around December 18 — you gave that date in the same letter where you requested more information for Customs and Excise.

Damian Albion

On my return from lunch, I had received a reply.

From: Chris Notverygoodmover []
Sent: 18 December 2006 13:50
Subject: RE: Consignment for OurAlbion

Mr Albion,

Delivery can be made between 0900–0930 on Friday 22ndDecember. Please advise if this is OK for you.

Best Regards


** Please be Green, do not print this email unless it is essential ***

I can only assume that he began to ponder things like insurance for someone else’s movers in his warehouse, having a van with someone else’s livery in his yard, the potential insurance mess if something got broken, and how he was going to explain any of that to his SHIT bosses and decided that it was easier to do the right thing.

Some names and dates have been slightly adjusted to protect the guilty.

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Copyright © Damian Clarke, 2019. Original post first published on the Our Albion blog, 20 December 2006.

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

Damian Clarke

Written by

I’m a writer and publisher working in Sydney, Australia and London, UK. I specialise in finance, technology, insurance, property, medicine and sustainability.

Our Albion

he story of a guy with a hammer, some nails and an old house to use them on.

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