The mystery of the ever disappearing delivery man

Delivery drivers can be the bane of Christmas. Is yours? Getty images

Delivery drivers will deliver Covid Tests across the county on Sundays - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

David Clayton ordered a new phone. That was the easy part...

I've just ordered a new phone. I've been fighting my current model as its battery has struggled to keep a charge for any decent length of time and all sorts of Apps churn along, trying to load. As is the way of the world the purchase was all done on-line, and a despatch date was arranged.

I'm always a bit nervous at this point, because I'm down a shared driveway and a satnav can only get some of the way to my door. I'm in admiration of the hard-pressed delivery drivers who find me.

The e-mails started. My package had left the supplier. My package is with the delivery people. My package will be delivered tomorrow, and I'll get a text message to pin-point an hour-long window when it'll arrive. Apart from the lovely convenience of all this, it doesn't half build up the excitement.

D-day arrived and sure enough by mid-morning I was told it was Gary delivering my phone and he'd arrive between 4.06pm and 5.06pm. The precision was as impressive as it was puzzling. Coming from a broadcasting world, I wondered whether Gary had to listen to the on-the-hour news and weather first.

I was busy all day with an energetic two-year-old grandson and 4.06pm slipped by before I realised. I remembered that I could track Gary's progress, so it being around 4.40pm, I looked at a map which helpfully showed me where I was, and then more importantly where Gary was. He was in or around the small village of Hassingham. I was optimistic and happy to cut Gary a bit of slack as he was the right side of the City for me. Having presented BBC Radio Norfolk's Treasure Quest for some eight years, tracking things around Norfolk against the clock was all second nature to me, despite a wholly underserved reputation for being useless at map reading. I noted he was making 'Delivery Number 25.' I was ominously 'Delivery Number 38.' The clock was ticking, the tension was rising. This was feeling more like the radio programme minute by minute.

I looked again some ten minutes later – still in Hassingham. Was 'Delivery Number 25' that big? 5.06pm came and went. I checked him again. Guess where? Goodness, I thought, Hassingham must be the on-line ordering capital of East Norfolk. At 6.06pm (Obviously, I listened to the news and weather first) he was STILL in Hassingham. Had he broken down? Had he been kidnapped? Was Hassingham holding him hostage? I was worried for his welfare.

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Ever the optimist, I was still hoping Gary would ring my doorbell until well past 8.06pm. He didn't. I resigned myself to not having a new phone. Nothing had changed on the tracker. He and his van were frozen in time on 'Delivery 25.' Hang on, it said I could look to see where my parcel had been. Hassingham wasn't mentioned but I did see at 6.28pm it was back at the depot and then, as if to emphasise the point, at 6.38pm it was listed again, as being back in the depot.

Later that evening another message arrived 'parcel is delayed due to unexpected delay.' The tautology and vagueness of this left Hassingham still firmly in the frame, as far as I was concerned. My phone would be delivered tomorrow between 10.43am and 11.43am. Clearly there was a scheduled travel bulletin on the radio for three minutes. It was delivered, but not by Gary. I have it. It works. Well it did after I'd had various on-line chats with a succession of 'grown-ups' somewhere in the world.

Hurtling around in vans along Norfolk's highways and byways mostly in the dark, trying to shift mountains of stuff before Christmas is not for the faint hearted. Gary – I've no idea what happened to you but my respect and thanks to you and your colleagues. I hope you're OK – in Hassingham?