The Fish Society is often asked to send fish to far flung places. We despatch all over Europe every week and we send a steady trickle of parcels to the USA. Delivery is never cheap (Europe - typically £50, USA - $80) but if you're in Perth Australia and hanker after some jellied eels, we're your best bet.
The specified transit time for a parcel to Australia is four days (although it usually makes it in three), so it needs a lot of dry ice. But when Andrew Fraser placed his most recent order for his mum, Veronica's jellied eels, we had a difficult challenge. Off went the parcel on a Friday afternoon, as it had done six months earlier. Only to be returned to us on the Monday together with the advice that DHL doesn't allow dry ice in parcels to Australia.
"But you've taken three dry ice parcels in the last four months", we said.
"Well, we shouldn't have... they must have slipped through unnoticed."
(They did explain the problem, but it's too complicated to cover here.)
We turned to Fedex. But their booking site wouldn't accept our shipment. We called them. "Why can't we book this parcel to Perth?"
"What's in it?"
"Er, have you got dry ice in there?"
"Hmm, we don't take dry ice to Perth. We take it in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. But not Perth."
So we came up with Plan C: a medical grade poly box (with extra thick walls) and an extra-large quantity of super cold gel ice - frozen in our dry ice cabinet to minus 80C.
We always send to Australia on a Friday because the networks tend to be less busy at the weekend. Usually our despatches to Australia arrive on a Monday.
The next problem was evident on the Saturday evening: from the Fedex site we could see that our parcel was still in the UK. It eventually set off on the Sunday morning. All day Monday, there was no further information. Was it in Dubai? Singapore? Hongkong?
We exchanged a couple of nervous emails with Andrew. No sign of the eels. Nor on the Tuesday. Oh dear.
Success! We got in on Wednesday morning to this email from Andrew:
Hi Liz and Alistair
The eels arrived today (Tuesday in Perth) still very much frozen, much to the delight of mum. I really appreciate everything you both have done and the follow up..
Here's a photo of my delighted mum.
Have a great Christmas and fantastic New Year
Til the next time Veronica!
Veronica and her family emigrated to Australia in 1982 from Kentish Town, where Castle's Pie & Mash shop is still serves eels 85 years after it opened.