There’s the 11th hour and then there’s the 11th hour and 59th minute. This story took us to the 59th second.
Simon Walker is a friend through a friend and a man of impeccable taste. He contracted us to make him six suits for his wedding – S120s wool in grey and black with embroidered button hole roses and uzis on the waistcoats. One for him and five for his ushers. The wedding was last Friday. They all looked impeccable. It was so nearly not so.
7pm on the Tuesday before the Friday and things are not looking good. Simon’s second fitting was more of an ill fitting and the boy was stressed. Rightly so, it’s not the suit he ordered. It appeared to belong to someone else. Someone of a different shape. Someone, perhaps, who wasn’t getting married in three days.
I, composed on the outside, was also a little stressed – I was bricking it. I knew what had to be done, I just didn’t like the timescales. India had to make it again, from scratch, in a day and then the courier had to get it here… and then it had to fit. I calmly promised him a new suit by the wedding, one that fitted, I warned him it might be close. Simon left feeling better and I called India. It was two in the morning and Mani took it well. If a little groggily. I followed up with a text and an e-mail and went home to bed.
Next morning and I found an urgent message to call Mani. “There’s no fabric, not to match the trousers. We have a S150 in cashmere silk but it’s very expensive. Is it ok to use that…?”. “… F**k yes, make it out of tiger skin if nessasary, just make it”. India’s five and a half hours ahead. We’d lost half a day. But come 11pm local time and I get a call to say it’s done. Hats off, they bust a nut to do it and they did. Now it’s in the hands of TNT. Dynamite.
I spent the day watching the on-line tracker. Trackers are imperfect. Does “Scanned Mumbai International” mean it’s on a flight, sitting in a warehouse or on a customs officer’s desk awaiting backshish? Come Friday morning, 6am and I’m no clearer. The status hasn’t changed in 8 hours. The flight is 9. Is that good? I called TNT.
Jenny was lovely. She was very calm and composed as I gibbered. She said it appeared to still be in Bombay, that it was on a three day service and that we should have on Monday – Bombay! Three day service!! Monday!!! But she couldn’t be sure. I explained. She sympathised. We got escelated to the crack parcel team at TNT HQ and 20 mins later Dean called me back.
Dean struck me as a little world weary. He’d seen it all before and was well aware that if a parcel’s in India at 9am then it’s not going to be in London by 1pm. Wedding or no wedding. He promised to investigate. Another 20 minutes and he called again, this time marginally more animated. It had been on the flight and had just cleared customs. It would then go to the Heathrow sorting office, get trucked to the City depot and should be sorted and delivered by 6pm… 5 hours too late.
“Can I collect from the depot?”
“Er, it’s possible.”
“What time will it get there?”
“Well, it’ll depend on traffic.”
“Dean, sharpen up. This matters. Let’s take an educated guess. What time will it get there?”
“About 11:10 I’d imagine. Their number is 0800 SHITIT. Give them a call, they’ll be as helpful as they can. The address is 12 Pages Walk, Bermondsey. You’ll need some photo ID and a utility bill. I’ll phone too and let them know you’re coming”.
Thank you Dean. Better.
So, four phone calls: one to Leroy at TNT City, one to the groom’s party to let them know we’re “go”, one to the hotel to tell them to clear a path and one to Ali to get my passport out.
But Ali had an idea. The depot is only down the road. Why doesn’t she sling the baby in a pram, hot-foot it down there and meet me? So did Christy. She’ll take the steamer in a cab to the hotel and save us from using those special hotel irons that have burnt nylon shirt and chicken tikka stuck to the base. Two good ideas make a three pronged attack.
The scooter starts first time. Runs for 40 yards then dies. Oh crap. Not now. Not here. But it’s the fuel and I have a reserve. From Soho I screamed down to Bermondsey in 20 mins tearing up the road (and probably my licence) and rode up Pages Walk looking for TNT. There it was, a massive orange sign, the size of a house, shining like the sun, and in front of it, by the gate, poised, were Leroy, Ali and the baby Daisy. Leroy was holding the parcel like the Dairymilk man. Ali was holding Daisy and Daisy was holding a pen. They were all grinning.
“Sign here” says Leroy whilst strapping the parcel to my pannier. My 7 month old handed me the pen, I kissed my wife and left.
At 12:15 exactly, I walked in to the hotel and up to room 614. Again, a crack squad welcoming committee. Christy’s got the steamer fired and ready to go, Simon’s in his shirt, tie, socks and underpants poised like a sumo. I became acutely aware that we may have conquered the south pole but we’re not sure if the flag’s in the bag. I tore it open.
And that is how Mr Simon Walker got his wedding suit. He did look spectacular and remarkably composed. The wedding, I understand, was a dream, the best man’s speech was a little longer and Simon had “The best day of his life”.