It happens to all of us, but yesterday I had ‘one of those days’. The kind when you have a set amount of tasks to fulfil (often a sizeable number of them) and somehow events conspire to thwart you.
You know the sort of thing. You’ve just been invited to “Come up and see me sometime …” [i.e. specifically in about ten minutes to a nominated hotel room] by Sophia Loren, or Anita Ekberg or Kim Novak – or indeed, possibly all three – and unaccountably you’ve first just got to go to collect your Roman centurion’s outfit, plus chains, horse halter and whip, from that little corner repair shop in Bayswater.
Can you get to it? … Can you find it? … Can you, hell!
You get stuck talking to a policeman, someone steals your push-bike, the road gets grid-locked, a nuclear war breaks out … and you never get there, until you wake up.
Sorry, I digress.
Back to yesterday.
It was about 11.30am that I set off by car to collect my laundry, nip to Waitrose for some food, refuel my car and visit the bank – in that order – an expedition that in normal circumstances I’d have allocated 60 minutes (maximum) of my day.
First, the centre of Richmond, going past the station to the main A316 roundabout, was inexplicably grid-locked – so I switched my route (and sequence) to aim for Sheen and the petrol garage first.
There my petrol point magnanimously allowed me just £4.41’s worth of fuel before shutting down. I walked to the shop and drew this to the attention of the attendant on duty. He noted the £4.41 and suggested I move to a different unit which, with some difficulty in the traffic conditions on the forecourt, I duly did.
Some £84 later, I went to pay. Now came a real complication. Neither the attendant, nor his supervisor, could get the cash machine to register the original £4.41 that I had managed to get into my car’s fuel tank. After five minutes of toing and froing at the desk, I suggested that I paid the subsequent amount of £84 first and then that we addressed the £4.41 afterwards (thus two separate transactions). Eventually, not without pain, this was indeed what happened.
By now I was already 25 minutes into my quest. The traffic route back to the A316 via Mortlake was congested, so I then made decision 2. Instead of next visiting the laundry, I’d buy my food next … and from Sainsburys, not Waitrose.
This task took 40 minutes because – inexplicably (this being only 1st December) everybody in south-west London had seemingly decided to do their Christmas food shopping this day.
As a result, the tills were rammed with queuing shoppers, many of them sub-human in their intelligence – i.e. the type that packs all their purchases into bags before reaching for their purse or wallet … and only then discovers they’ve left said item at home, or that they’ve forgotten to buy something vital, or somehow they’ve managed to pick the only polythene bag of carrots in the establishment that doesn’t have a bar-code attached.
By now fuming at the world and sensing things going awry, I next set off for the laundry shop in Kew. I was soon in another traffic queue and saw ahead on the road the issue causing the problem: a new set of temporary traffic lights were operating (at funereal pace), due to road works. Single decker red buses, lorries and coaches – let alone other vehicles – going both ways were trying to ‘beat’ the lights … and thus were clogging up the road both ways. Stalemate – gridlock.
After five to six minutes, having decided to abandon going to the laundry (originally my priority task) I reached the first possible side-turning to the left and took it, back to the road going from Kew Gardens to the A316 roundabout at Richmond.
Another 30 minutes later, I finally reached the roundabout … went around to one-way system as far as Waitrose (the first place I could park on a meter bay) … and rushed on foot to the bank. There I was presented with just two counter windows ‘open’ and a queue of customers nine-strong, dutifully waiting in line. Two problems were immediately self-evident: by now it was lunchtime, which meant greater foot-fall (which I could do nothing about) and – presumably, inevitably – some of those waiting were shop owners (or assistants) banking the weekend’s takings.
Well, I struck gold with that speculation. I had to wait half an hour to reach the front of the queue. One twerp spend twenty minutes of that (whilst no fewer than eight customers – I counted them – used the only other window open and ‘working’) hogging one window on his own. By the time I reached the front of the queue there were eleven people waiting behind me. I’m going to write to the Nat West branch manager – it’s an outrageous way of arranging things when 80% of customers are ordinary people who just want to cash some money or bank a cheque.
I finally reached home again just shy of 1.30pm. In other words, I’d been out on my expedition for two whole hours and not even made it to the laundry shop, which was my original reason for setting out in the first place!
You just couldn’t make this sort of thing up.