Can I Help You? No, of Course Not

For those of us who stumble along at the tail-end of events, wondering how we got there and how soon we can get out of it, there’s clearly an attraction in any promise to fix everything in one easy move.

It’s no wonder self-help books and the like have a loyal following, since there are quite a number of us who are always looking for help. The difficulty is in the ‘self’ part, of course: the whole point of being a notverygood is that you aren’t very good at helping yourself. This is probably why you don’t see a lot of self-help books with titles like ‘How to Succeed by Working Extremely Hard and Doing Things Well’.

No, what most of us secretly want is someone to come and put everything right. So I’m leaving you with a Monday thought: if a large number of people all appeared carrying banners that said SOMEBODY COME AND FIX THIS, what – if anything – do you think would happen next?

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So That’s Why They Call It Retail Therapy

You hear a lot about the way that shopping, once a lively experience rich in human contact, has gone all soulless now, what with online stores and automated checkouts and all. Well yes, there’s a lot in that, not to mention all the difficulties of getting anything to work (as whinged about in earlier blogs), but there is one rarely-mentioned upside: machines can’t laugh at you. At least, not yet. They can’t sigh, roll their electronic eyes or even gently offer to take you through the whole thing again.

We don’t usually think of ourselves as being either good or bad at shopping, but if you ask me it’s a skill like anything else. Starting with the basics: how many hands do you need to manage goods, cards, card readers cash, coupons, and any small people, confused elders and so on whom you may have brought along? I make it six at least, and you can double that at Christmas. Having only two feeble paws, I find it’s a rare day that I get out without spilling my change, upsetting the card machine or bursting a carton or two.

Traumatic, that’s what it is. No wonder we all need therapy afterwards.


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Taking It Easy Is Hard Work


By this time of year, there’s a fine online harvest of holiday snaps, anecdotes and the like. And they all look lovely when I trawl through them on Facebook. Sometimes I get quite carried away – except that, of course, you don’t get actually, physically carried away: and that’s the trouble.

It’s not like you suddenly find yourself swimming with a shark (or not in a way you’d like); or realise you’ve absentmindedly blundered into the Taj Mahal. You don’t set out for a relaxing stroll and then find yourself saying: ‘What, the summit of Uluru already? Well, fancy that.’

In other words, you have to do stuff. You can decide to stick to your nearest Butlins or go for the most inclusive of inclusive packages and you still have to get organised. You have to confuse yourself  online or go into a travel agent and be beaten over the head with brochures until you give in.

And yet we notverygoods need our holidays. We use up a lot of energy, what with finding everything a challenge. And clearly paying someone lots of dosh to arrange the whole thing for you has its drawbacks. So what next? (Got so tired thinking about all this holiday planning that it’s clear I  need a holiday. But then again …)


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It’s Really Very Simple, and Other Lies


There are some sentences I can’t see or hear without going cold all over. They include:

‘It’s really very simple.’

‘If I can do it, anyone can.’

‘Don’t worry, I’m no technophile either.’

‘Just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.’

And, worst of all: ‘Any fool can do it.’ (Sometimes followed helpfully by ‘Even you.’)

No idea why this should happen, but if I hear any of the above I can almost guarantee that I’m about to prove that person wrong. Which isn’t all that satisfying: we all like to be special, but not at the price of being told ‘Well, nobody else has had any trouble with it.’

Instructions for anything to do with computers are surely the worst. They always start very promisingly, but by point 2 or 3 there will always be something along the lines of ‘Just link to your gobbledegook, then simply obtain your Da Vinci code and paste it into your magic window’ – sometimes accompanied by a helpful video clip showing a screen that looks nothing like mine.

But I’m sure it’s all really very simple …