A life less con­ve­nient

A com­bi­na­tion of shoddy ser­vice, de­mean­ing do­mes­tic­i­ties and lack of hired help has left Kate Birch feel­ing fraz­zled

Friday - - Leisure -

This week, I re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion that my car needed tax­ing. Once I’d re­minded my­self what tax ac­tu­ally was, I found my­self at a loss. What was I sup­posed to do ex­actly? And how long would it take?

You see, not only have I never had to pay tax be­fore, but when it comes to ‘things’ that need to be ‘sorted’ – you know, those queue-wait­ing, form-fill­ing, brain-bor­ing do­mes­tic things that strip you of your time, en­ergy and dig­nity – well, I’ve al­ways got (read paid) some­one else to do it for me.

It’s not be­cause I’m lazy or lack­ing in ini­tia­tive, or be­cause I think my­self too im­por­tant to deal with such dull, de­mean­ing do­mes­tic­i­ties. It’s be­cause when you live in a coun­try like the UAE – where you can af­ford to get some­one to reg­is­ter your car, push your su­per­mar­ket trol­ley, pack your suit­cases – then, well, you do so, don’t you?

Whether it’s shelling out for some­one to wa­ter your gar­den, fold your plas­tic bags, or take your kids to school, hav­ing hired help is one of the big bonuses to life in the UAE.

But it’s not like that in Bri­tain, be­cause un­less you’re pulling in a six-fig­ure an­nual salary, which most peo­ple aren’t, then you have to do ev­ery­thing your­self.

Apart from the ob­vi­ous, like bring­ing up your own chil­dren – that means, driv­ing them to school, cook­ing their food, bathing them, wash­ing their dirty clothes – you also have to pack your own shop­ping, iron your own shirts and re­cy­cle your own rub­bish. I mean, for good­ness sake, you even have to drive your own car.

Hav­ing never lived in Bri­tain as a re­spon­si­ble adult, there is a lot of stuff I sim­ply don’t know how to do, which at 40 years of age is rather em­bar­rass­ing.

I had to re­cruit my mum to teach me how to cross a road safely, light a fire and change a light bulb, be­fore rop­ing in my mother-in-law to demon­strate how to change a du­vet cover, de-ice a car and post a let­ter.

But it wasn’t just the ‘not know­ing’ how to tackle such tasks that was shame­ful, but the ‘not know­ing’ that such tasks needed to be done in the first place.

I mean, who knew that a vac­uum cleaner had a bag that needed to be changed? Or that a li­cence had to be bought in or­der to watch TV? Or even that you had to fill your own car up with petrol? I dis­cov­ered that last one

Hav­ing never lived in Bri­tain as a re­spon­si­ble adult, there is a lot of stuff that I sim­ply don’t know how to do, which at 40 years of age is re­ally rather em­bar­rass­ing

in rather hu­mil­i­at­ing fash­ion on my sec­ond week back in the UK.

Sit­ting in my car in a petrol sta­tion, reap­ply­ing lip­stick as I waited to be filled up, I was awo­ken from my reap­pli­ca­tion reverie by an an­gry man knock­ing on my win­dow, de­mand­ing to know what I was do­ing.

As re­al­i­sa­tion dawned – I spot­ted six cars con­tain­ing six equally an­gry men queued be­hind me – I leapt out of my car in all my red-lipped hu­mil­i­a­tion.

“I’m so sorry. I thought some­one was go­ing to do it for me,” I ex­claimed, re­al­is­ing as I said it just how ridicu­lous it sounded.

“No­body does any­thing for you here, love,” said the man, eye­ing me with sus­pi­cion.

And he’s right. Even the peo­ple in cus­tomer ser­vices – you know, those peo­ple paid good money to ‘help’ you – don’t help you. I found this out last month when my new sofa ar­rived.

The two men who de­liv­ered the sofa de­cided, af­ter one pa­thetic at­tempt, they wouldn’t be able to squeeze said sofa through the front door and so, de­spite my des­per­ate pleas to try again, dumped it in­stead in the gar­den.

I could have cried. Ac­tu­ally, that’s wrong. I did cry, be­fore push­ing the sofa through the door my­self and col­laps­ing upon it, ex­hausted.

It’s lit­tle won­der that in this Land of In­con­ve­nience, where pa­tience-push­ing pa­per­work and time-con­sum­ing chores rule cruel Bri­tan­nia, that more than half of us are con­tin­u­ously tired… so says a new study by Champ­neys health spa.

But we’re not just tired. We’re also stressed. A re­cent Bupa sur­vey re­vealed 44 per cent of Brits are stressed, with one in five blam­ing day-to-day life, and 27 per cent so stressed they reg­u­larly feel close to break­ing point.

That would be me then. Though I ad­mit I’ve had only two break­ing-point mo­ments… in the past seven days.

The first, when to cheer my­self up af­ter sofa-gate, I or­dered a take­away curry, only to be told that I would have to col­lect it my­self: a 20-minute walk in the freez­ing cold. Who col­lects any­thing them­selves nowa­days?

The sec­ond, when to cheer my­self up af­ter curry-gate, I took my­self to a haute ho­tel, only to be asked, as I was bathing my body – and taste buds – in bub­bles, no less, to move my car from the front of the build­ing.

When I en­quired about the valet, the smarty-pants re­cep­tion­ist replied: “Oh, the valet? It’s over there, be­tween those two hills”.

Not for the first time since re­turn­ing to the UK, I was lum­bered with my oh-so-heavy bag­gage. It seems my pass­port from the United States of Pam­pered has well and truly ex­pired.

Over­worked, over­whelmed and over there... long-term Dubai ex­pat Kate Birch misses

her maid, strug­gles with small talk and is des­per­ate for some­one

to pack her shop­ping

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