Multi-tasking with Remote Control…

I’ve never understood how today’s multi-tasking mums manage to juggle children and household responsibilities with jobs, social networking, pets and Zumba classes. In the past we would have been dressed in a pinny, baking fairy cakes with the children, or (in a freshly laundered pinny) welcoming home our bread-winning husband, with a warm pair of slippers and a pipe to puff on in front of the TV before serving his lovingly home cooked dinner.

Having our roles clearly delineated at least gave us a sense of control over our lives. The problem with living in the 21st century is that we’ve let go of the reins. In the age of the portfolio career, the self-checkout and the DIY computer fix, we are expected to do everything ourselves – whilst funding others to lounge around on benefits. Apologies for having a bit of a rant, but it’s been a fraught week for me. I’ve been trying to get some work done at the same time as undertaking a bit of a spring clean…

I found some great Polish guys to paint my flat. They decorate in the evenings and at weekends to supplement their income. One of them has a degree in forestry and refuses to kill spiders. They work super-efficiently to Absolute Radio, so I felt it best to vacate the premises and leave them to it – returning only to the nauseating smell of freshly applied paint.

The upholstery cleaners were a different matter. They arrived the other morning (inconveniently shared with a visit by the gardener) – a sort of Hispanic version of Laurel and Hardy – with their large cleaning contraption. They proceeded to knock into furniture and spray soapy water liberally over the wooden floor. Until their steam cleaner broke down. They deduced that the plug must have fused and one of them disappeared – probably to B&Q. Meantime, in the absence of an internet signal, I realized that it was most likely a tripped switch in my fuse box. Problem solved, Stan dipped his arm down into the bowels of the machine and started dragging out large bits of treacly-looking gunk. Then Oliver returned with electrical supplies and a tool box and proceeded to dismantle the controls, leaving bits of chopped wire on the dining table. They finally concluded that the day’s work was done – they would have to return next week with another machine. So they left, leaving behind a scorched floorboard – and carrying the curtains and cushion covers of my £££ B&B Italia sofa away for cleaning in what looked like bin bags. I do hope I see them again (the curtains and covers that is).

Meantime, I therapeutically threw out my knackered old blinds without realizing what a struggle it would be to find someone to make up net curtains at short notice. My first port of call was Peter Jones. I went to the section with a large sign promising a 7 day make up service and stood around for a while. There were two assistants sitting at desks helping one couple with their order. A manager came over and said he’d send someone to attend. It must have been 20 minutes before I finally sat down opposite a man with a computer and a serious piece of ear-kit. The scene that unfolded was like a surreal combination of Are You Being Served and Little Britain: a farcically camp rendering of ‘the computer says no.’ I asked if he had a pen and paper – and, after a lot of prompting, he resorted to writing down my details and order for three voile curtains. But he said he’d have to call me back with an estimate, as presumably he hadn’t been trained to use a calculator. When he did eventually call back I nearly crashed my car at the ‘never knowingly undersold’ £889 quote – though I would have gone ahead if it weren’t for the fact that:

a) they couldn’t guarantee that the curtains would be ready by my deadline of 2nd June (they weren’t the right sort of curtains for the 7 day service), and

b) they said I had to go back to sign on the dotted line. But it had already taken forty minutes – plus and extra 10 minutes trying to find an assistant to help me locate the curtain wires…why couldn’t I just pay the money and be done with it?

On the way home I thought I’d try my luck at Chelsea Upholsterers. I wandered into an empty shop with a strong (home from home) smell of paint. “Hello,” I shouted into the fumes. A young man appeared with black paint all over his hands. He informed me they offered a curtain making service and could come to measure my windows and easily get the nets to me within two weeks. But I had to email him with the measurements and the type of fabric I was looking for – and pick up one of his cards as I left, as he was incapacitated by the paint on his hands… Alas, the following morning I received a response to the email saying that their seamstress was too busy to make my curtains.

With time running out, at the suggestion of a neighbour, I visited a needlework school called The Sewing Rooms. They were clearly busy, but I only had to queue for 5 minutes to inform a very officious lady of my requirement. “Our curtain making expert may be able to help,” I was informed, though unfortunately she was only in on Thursdays. Nevertheless, Ms Bossyboots (obviously trained at a school for doctors’ receptionists) would pass on my details. Or, better still, I could email her my details and she would forward those to the girl in question. So I’ve sent my email…but I won’t hold my breath.

I was planning to write something creative today, but my imagination has been somewhat stymied by the events of the week. Plus, downloading the latest version of Firefox has caused everything to run slowly, and my computer can no longer communicate with my printer. Oh, and my unrequested ‘free upgrade’ at Blogger means I’ve lost all control over my blog’s layout.

I’m so looking forward to making fairy cakes for the Diamond Jubilee.

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

8 thoughts on “Multi-tasking with Remote Control…

    May 19, 2012 at 09:55

    Hesitate to ask Susan, after such a catalogue of woe, er, you don’t by any chance bank with Santander?
    After many years as co-directors frau m and oneself had things domestic down to a fine art. There was Marlene from Manila, a treasure as ever was, the Jif never out of her hand as she maintained boilers, electrical stuff, broken chairs and tuned the video. An accomplished in-house curtain maker when required, she became our man Friday.
    Twelve years later she remains a family friend, a trained physio she eventually set up a successfull sports clinic, abandoning her previous life as a toiler at the laundry face.
    So, I can highly recommend, for peace of mind, the acquisition of a Marlene.

    May 19, 2012 at 14:58

    Perhaps the woe comes from being born on a Wednesday, malty? But, yes, I could do with a Marlene. I did once have a Mad Marcia (also from Manila), who pruned the whole of a mature garden to within a foot of the ground. She also mysteriously managed to smash half a Royal Worcester dinner service in one go. Then there was Columbian Consuelo who moved on to become a high-flying PA. If I still lived in a house I’d probably still have a housekeeper. Anyway, it may be serendipitous that I’ve just discovered we Dabblers have a Curtain King in our midst…

    May 20, 2012 at 00:31

    One of the sights of life in Africa years ago was that of the Asian man at his treadle sewing machine. Working outside on his mud verandah in the remotest of dusty settlements, the tailor offered a first-class service to local black villagers and assorted white settlers, fulfilling orders for curtains, dresses and trousers, repairing zips, hems, tears and so on. I’ve often wondered what happened to those tailors and their families as the charity clothes trade from Europe quietly killed off their livelihoods. But I can report a pleasing development here in a Midlands city. Seizing on the opportunities offered by hard times, Asian tailors are setting up shop again, squeezing their one-man businesses into the small empty units increasingly available in the glitzy shopping mall. Just as all those years ago, their sewing is impeccable and their charges reasonable. They could show Peter Jones and the Chelsea Upholsterers a thing or two.

      May 20, 2012 at 15:44

      It’s great to hear some good news about British manufacturing, Mary! I should probably be heading to London’s East End my search for a machinist. I tried another upholstery shop locally and they were also too busy. And The Sewing Rooms seamstress got back with the message that she’s sprained her ankle and it’s her birthday – strange reasons to not be able to make curtains. I despair.

  4. Gaw
    May 20, 2012 at 17:41

    Over the years I’ve opened three accounts, each for a different business, at my local Barclays branch. I chose them because they’re the closest to where I live and it was easy to pop in to see my manager. I was recently informed that each account was being relocated to a different branch in central London, each coming with a different ‘relationship’ manager. As you can imagine this is a real inconvenience. So why on earth did they do this, without even consulting me? As part of ‘a reorganisation to improve customer service’.

      May 20, 2012 at 17:46

      The world is going crazy, but at least you don’t bank with Santander, Gaw!

    May 20, 2012 at 17:54

    YES! I have finally ordered some curtains via the internet, a bit risky without seeing any fabric samples, but they should be delivered within a week or so. I will keep my fingers crossed.

    But whatever happened to customer service??

  6. Brit
    May 20, 2012 at 20:54

    On the subject of multi-tasking, this morning before going out I was for a short period watching the cricket on tv while listening to Desert Island Discs on the radio while reading the comments on The Dabbler while sending a text message while ensuring that my daughter remained in place on her potty.

    This sort of thing isn’t healthy and will probably at some point bring the wrath of the Gods quite properly down on our decadent heads.

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