On Saturday I'm off to Penzance for a week's holiday and of course I want to cycle while I'm there. Unfortunately, the bike compartment on the train was already booked up a month ago when I bought my ticket, so I decided to send the bike ahead by courier. I nipped down to my friendly LBS yesterday and they were kind enough to donate a carboard bike box (thanks Blazing Saddles of Hebden Bridge !). I had to strip the bike down a bit more than I'd hoped, but eventually I got 90% of it in. The back wheel was too much of a squeeze so I'm going to carry that down on the train. It's cost me £30 extra because I left it until the last minute, but it will still be cheaper than hiring a bike while I'm down there. Amazingly, if I'd booked the courier a few days ago, I could have got the bike there and back for about £20. I rang the Parcel company this morning to arrange for the bike to be picked up, having checked the details last night on their website. The conversation that followed didn't leave me with a great impression of the current UK educational system... Young woman (mumbling): dshjhdsjh... Me: Pardon? Young woman (mumbling): dshjhdsjh... Me: Er, sorry, I can't hear you - you're mumbling! Young woman (stops mumbling for a second, but now sounds as though she is chewing gum): Yeah, right! Me: I want to post a bicycle... Young woman (mumbling): dshjhdsjh... Me: You're mumbling again! Young woman (trying hard): You can't! Me: Oh yes I can! Young woman: Sez oo? Me: 'Natalie', last night - I checked using the website's 'live chat' service. Young woman: Oh. (silence...) Me: So, can we book it then? Young woman grunts. I assume that means 'yes'. Me: I've put it in a proper cardboard bike box... Young woman starts laughing: Oh, it's a parcel not a bike then! Me: Yes, it's a parcel containing a bicycle! I'll skip the long-winded debate about the dimensions of the parcel. I'd already worked out that it was oversize and that would be a surcharge, but we still had to caclulate the volume. The weight was okay. Finally the transaction seemed to be progressing. I gave my details, then the address of my friend in Penzance. Young woman: Werzat? Me: Pardon? Young woman: Werzat? Me: Werzat? Young woman: Yeah, werzat! Me: (Werzat...Werz at... Wer zat...) Oh, where's that! Young woman: Yeah! Me: Penzance, er (blimey!!!), it's a town in Cornwall. Young woman: Werzat? Me: Where's Cornwall? Young woman: Yeah, is Cornwall a place in the United Kingdom or is this an overseas delivery? Flipping Heck, I know that Geography isn't a compulsory subject any more but surely someone working for a parcel company in England should at least have heard of Cornwall ! At least the rest of the system seems to be working. DHL picked the bike up 2 hours later and it should be in Penzance before 10 am tomorrow. Hopefully undamaged! I checked with M&S and their much-vaunted Home/contents insurance covers the bike in this situation too. The guy on the help desk wasn't sure so he phoned the underwriter to confirm that it did. I assume that the same would apply when taking the bike by plane? There's a really nice loop I did years ago when I last took a bike down - Penzance, Newlyn, Mousehole, Land's End, Sennen Cove (might nip down to the beach for a while if it's sunny!), St Just, Zennor, St Ives, Nancledra, and back to Penzance. I found it really hard work back then, but I reckon it will seem a lot easier now. I hope to do that a couple of times, and that I get the chance to explore bits of West Cornwall that I haven't been to yet. The forecast is for reasonable weather next week - hoorah!