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A Polite Note

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Handwritten on the back of a programme for an Icelandic experimental music festival and inserted in a tin of Fortnum & Mason's Tercentenary Blend Tea, which has reached John Smith by a circuitous, but quick, route.

Sorry we weren't here when you called and thank you for ferrying the case to a suitable rendezvous. (Mr Smith prudently kept the mothership's flight plan for stops on the way home.) The ship, by the way, was like a small Victorian conservatory, and to prevent alarm switched its lights off and atmospheric excitation on, which meant sluicing rain during take-off. There wasn't any wind, but in the darkness and wetness one of the specimen cases was left behind. Of course it was the case of mosses and lichens Our Recent Visitor was most interested in. We'd gone to the Western Isles and Lappland to collect them, with ORV passing as Luke's little brother with special needs, hunched inside a hoodie jacket. We botanised every day, and Luke did his homework in the light of white nights. You're right that everything in the garden's lovely. That was ORV's parting gesture. Luke and I towelled dry and collapsed after the take-off, and in the morning I went out to tidy up only to find the garden damp but flourishing. Even Aunt L's climbing rose, previously on its last stem. The cherry tree and other fruiting marvels are new — they must have been duplicate specimens, growth accelerated by ORV or his ship. I had to imply to the postman that I'd had landscape gardeners transplant some Chelsea show trees overnight. When you called we were out on a research trawler, taking a musician from Arcateen 5 to Reyjavik. Sublime concert in a force 8 gale. Luke is now editing the "what I did in my holidays" presentation the school demands. He's stuck to Finnish girls and berry-picking. A few unconvincing snaps of reindeer. Thank you again for the delivery. SJ