The day started as a lazy one, since I didn’t see any point in waking earlier than the Post Office opened. I trundled down Nine Tree Hill with my parcel nested between my inner forearms a little after 9 am. For anyone carrying the slightest weight, walking up Nine Tree Hill would be terror; perhaps suitably named (with a hint of hyperbole) as being as steep as nine trees would be high, perched one above the other with the lowermost acting like an oriental world tortoise. On this occasion, the parcel contained a small porcelain figure—a bibelot which hardly registered as additional burden at all, and yet I was still thankful for carrying it down the hill rather than up. The post office was a straightforward walk from here, and I pushed open the customarily red door and joined the queue: three or four ahead of me, neatly, British-fashion. The wait gave me time to peruse (although I didn’t really have a choice) haphazardly-arranged wares common to a post office hidden in the back of a convenience store: a pack of padded envelopes forming the shelving eyrie, guarding an untouched selection of children’s colouring chalks. These, of course, were next to the fridge; sandwiches next to mutton samosas, in turn emblazoned with black, yellows, greens. These would have perhaps been as pleasant to Selassie’s followers as the queue moving was to me.
As for the people, they were an unextraordinary bunch; their purposes were clear. That is, except for one. For our lot, standing in the doorway of the kiosk, his motives were slightly ajar—curiously so, a letter balancing between his thumb and forefinger, with a booklet of stamps above the dimly cream envelope. Standing next to the cereals, it was unclear whose attention he wanted to attract, probably not mine although I gave it to him anyway. The queue was moving. Sunken eyes matched a sunken chin, morphing into his neck imperceptibly; elderly, but with lightly-set wrinkles, more akin to sun damage than a life of living through rough times, although I suspected a mixture of the two. An air of comic sadness; whilst his features were mostly droopy, the top lip had remained in place giving him an appearance of a sad turtle in sad times. He pulled his flat-cap over his discreet eyebrows.
“Good morning, for the purposes of safety, could you please tell me what’s in here?”