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