Retired James and Doreen Patchett sent a slice of cake to friends who couldn’t make their golden wedding party – but it took two years to arrive.

The couple, of Ferry Road in Fiskerton, near Lincoln, sent the cake to friends in Northamptonshire by first class post after the party in July 2002.

But John and Thelma Palin’s piece certainly wasn’t in first class condition when it arrived.

“I know it sounds a little odd, but first class deliveries get to the person the next day and we thought it would be a nice gesture,” said Mr Patchett.

With the cake in the post the couple forgot about the whole thing.

“The phone rang on Wednesday morning and it was my friend John,” Mr Patchett said. “He thanked me for the cake. I didn’t know what he was on about. I told him that I hadn’t sent any such thing and we ended the conversation – both extremely confused.

“It wasn’t until he’d slept on it that John realised what had happened. It was the two-year-old cake we’d posted for the anniversary – I couldn’t believe it. I just burst out laughing.”

Mr and Mrs Palin, from Kettering, were also amused. Mr Palin said: “Actually it looked all right, a little hard, but the icing still looked delicious. I don’t think we’ll be trying it though.”

Neither of the men were particularly angry with Royal Mail but both agreed that the incident did highlight a problem.

This is not the first time Echo readers have complained about post taking too long.

Last week we reported how Kath Turner (68) sent a copy of a competition entry form to her son from her home in North Cockerington, near Louth, in December 1992 – it didn’t get to Derbyshire until last week.

Two weeks ago bereaved couple Nicola and Malcolm Greensmith, of Lincoln’s West Parade, received a sympathy card from a relative two months after it was posted 13 miles away.

In May the Echo reported how Aubrey Sharpe sorted through his mail to find a postcard from his mother who died nearly 14 years ago. The postcard had been set from Bournemouth in 1986.

Royal Mail spokesman Rachel Farricker said that the organisation dealt with 82 million items of mail a day.

“Very occasionally things get lost but it is extremely rare,” she said. “Our systems are so streamlined that mistakes are rare.”

A spokesman for Post Watch, an independent watchdog, disagreed.

Senior administrator Joanne Priestley said that 4.5 million letters are lost every year.

“In the past financial year Royal Mail failed to meet all 15 of its performance targets – quite simply, it must improve,” she said.