No, this is not a diatribe about the south moaning about their ‘drought’ while it seems to have done nothing but rain here in the verdant north of England. It’s more to do with the way life’s hiccups seem to hit you all at one go.
It started when I arranged to meet an old friend who I haven’t for a while. The plan was to get together yesterday lunchtime and apart from not having seen each other since before Christmas, the idea had added poignancy because the pub where we meet is about to close.
That’s it above, the Buxton Inn in Gee Cross. We have been meeting there on and off for more than 25 years. Indeed, my friend grew up in the area and it has been his local for more than forty years.
But the point of this post isn’t to bemoan the death of the village pub, however much I’d like to, Rather it became the failed fixed point in what turned out to be a trying day.
You see, I’d also arranged to have our cable and broadband service upgraded on the same day. We were to have one of those magical TiVo boxes fitted that does everything you might possibly want to do with your tv, including watching programmes that haven’t even been filmed yet I shouldn’t wonder.
They were also going to install an extra V+ box in another room so I can avoid losing the argument when I want to watch football and the ladies of the house have Come Dine With Me or Don’t Tell the Bride in mind as a suitable viewing alternative.
As if this wasn’t enough to set my pulse racing, the company would also fit a new broadband hub that will increase the speed from 20 to 50 kilotons or some such.
You might think I’m being profligate in these difficult economic times, but believe it or not, all this high-tech wizardry costs 20% less per month than I’m paying now. Go figure, as they say on those American sitcoms.
I realised that I had arranged for all this magic to happen at the time I was meant to be meeting my friend, but I decided against changing the arrangement. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Things began to unravel late on Tuesday. A tearful Mrs P came downstairs to tell me that she had managed to drop her ladyshave into the toilet just as she had flushed it and it had disappeared round the u-bend.
This wouldn’t be such a tragedy, except that the plumbing in our ensuite is handled by a Saniflox system and the one thing you don’t need is a solid plastic and metal object wrecking the motor.
I put off doing anything about it until the morning, thinking I would have time to fix it before my lunchtime assignation. However, once I’d dismantled the surrounding woodwork and had a look at the unit itself, I decided that a job that involved both water and electricity was beyond my competency level.
I then made the mistake of contacting our insurance company and of course it wasn’t covered. They would quite happily take responsibility for the water and whatever else were in the toilet bowl and in the pipes that snake through the house, to the sewers and thence to the world beyond. But. alas, they did not cover me for the Saniflow in between.
So the rest of the morning was spent finding a plumber who might deign to sort it out without demanding a kidney or other bodily organ in exchange.
I’d managed to find someone who must only drive a Bentley as his company vehicle, so reasonable were his charges, when Richard Branson’s men arrived, as usual bearing strong Liverpudlian accents. (Just an observation.)
They had done their stuff and departed when their white van was replaced on the drive by the plumber and his apprentice who set about the macerator.
I left them up to their elbows in what plumbers are often up their elbows in while I set about reconnecting the DVD player, music system, son’s X-Box etc that we like to call our home entertainment centre.
Then the real problem started. There are a lot of computers in our house, all on an internal network through my wife’s home-based business. As well as their four Macs, there is a MacBook each used by my son and daughter, the latter’s iPad and my Windows desktop PC. All of them are working perfectly, except for one. Mine.
The intricacies of the network are too complicated to detail here, but for some unfathomable reason, my PC will connect to the network, but not to the wild world interweb beyond.
It had me and several younger, brighter minds completely baffled.
I spent what seemed like hours dashing up and down stairs, advising the plumber which screws would connect which bits of wood together, sorting out the tv software with the telephone helpline while scratching my head at my lack of internet connection whenever there was a lull.
It still isn’t resolved, by the way. I’m writing this on a substitute laptop. After hanging on the phone for twenty minutes, I got through to a helpful Indian chap who talked me through his ‘flowchart for idiots who can’t connect to the internet’ and then he gave up, promising to call me back.
He didn’t, but I was past caring by then and sat down to watch the Marseilles versus Inter Milan game on our new extra tv set.
And no, I didn’t make my lunchtime date either which has been postponed until next week. Assuming the pub hasn’t closed down by then.
UPDATE: I spent two hours on the phone to Virgin this morning trying various options to get online with absolutely no success whatsoever. They are now sending me a new ‘superhub’ which means I’ll be without an internet connection on my main PC for at least five days and I’m not hopeful that it will solve the problem. Especially after the technician’s closing remark: ‘In the meantime, I suggest you speak to a computer expert.’