Much ado about nothing
PUBLISHED: 16:56 30 September 2013 | UPDATED: 17:07 30 September 2013
The Cotswolds is, of course, the First World's First World, and I like to think our trivial problems are more trivial than any in the rest of the country.
My friend David, the scion of a wealthy Cotswold family, was in a foul temper. Half a dozen times he had asked his handyman, one of a couple who both work for him, to clear out an old wasps’ nest in the attic. Finally he rang his gofer and threatened him with the sack if he didn’t do something about the nest.
“You know what my man said to me?” said David to those gathered around him at my local. “He said `You can stuff your job. I’ve just won the Lottery’. Now I’ve lost both my handyman and my charlady – I don’t see why they had to stop work. My brother who works in the City lost more in a week than they won.” There were sympathetic murmurs. To lose your Mr Fix it and your Mrs Mop the same day was, we all agreed, extraordinarily bad luck.
I was reminded of this story after reading a news item about `First World problems’. David’s cri de coeur was, I had to admit, a classic `First World moan’. The loss of one’s cleaner or the cleaner taking a day off is one of the most common vexations in the well-upholstered Western world, according to a recent survey by OnePoll. Other frequent complaints, it says, are earphones becoming tangled in a bag, two Weetabix not fitting into the bowl properly, warm Pimm’s and hard Brie.
“Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it,” said a priggish spokesman for OnePoll. “Whilst we enjoy a lifestyle much more fortunate than some parts of the world, we still find time to moan about those more trivial problems during everyday life.”
The Cotswolds is, of course, the First World’s First World and I like to think our trivial problems are more trivial than any in the rest of the country. And to that end I have spent the last few weeks jotting down the ghastly predicaments that we suffer in our idyll.
I liked the cry by one friend that `there were so many rich people in her village that there were no locals left to work for her’ and another who was cross that she `had to get dressed to pay the gardener’. And a slew of mainly male mates were annoyed that they had to leave the house when the cleaner was cleaning.
However, the most frequent sob story is the lack of a decent mobile phone signal in our hills and I am in hearty agreement with the complainers. In my village, which nestles behind a hill, we needed a mast to get a signal. The mast was to be hidden in woods near a converted barn owned by a multi-millionaire. She objected to the structure because, she said, radio waves might harm her children. The second angst particular to the Cotswolds is about broadband. It doesn’t travel through our thick stone walls and so if you live in a decent-sized period house you frequently can’t get wi-fi in the kitchen or bathroom.
Other laments include living in a rural hideaway that is too far from a corner shop, getting mud on the rear view cameras of the 4x4, the combine harvester costing more than the Range Rover, getting sick of the menus at gastropubs, the Aga making the kitchen too hot in the summer and – and this is a universal Cotswold outcry – the revamping of the Cirencester Waitrose so that finding the Heston Blumenthal Lapsang Souchong Tea-Smoked Salmon is now harder than searching for King John’s lost crown jewels.
There is an enjoyable website that lists the most frequent grouches, or `white whines’ as they are also known, in America. They include `too much goat’s cheese in the salad’, `my diamond earrings keep scratching my iPhone’, `my bag is so full of fries, I can’t reach my burger’ and `the remote start in my car doesn’t turn on my heated seats’.
But I like to think that the American hard luck tales are not a patch on those from the Cotswolds. There is a titled friend of mine, for example, who has lined her Barbour in mink because she doesn’t want to be seen to be ostentatious. Last winter, one of the coldest on record, she complained to me that it was too hot to wear in town and too good to wear in the country and so she only used it once.
And I’d like to add that after my friend David bemoaned the loss of his Lottery Couple, my chum Philip piped up with a story that topped it. It was outrageous, said Philip, that Londis didn’t sell peach juice for Bellinis and that the only place he could find the stuff was at the Co-op in Bourton-on-the-Water “which was miles away”. We all agreed that that was a proper First World Cotswold complaint.