is possibly the best word to describe the amount of advice offered to those of advancing years. From my experience, the most useful guidance is to recognise one's limitations – particularly physical. Okay, there are those wonders who march up and down gardens to raise millions for charity. And who has not been shamed by 80+ veterans running marathons, bagging Munros and swimming the Bosphorus? All right, I made up that last one but you get the drift.
The trick is to aim low and remember that hands, eyes and joints are not what they used to be. Last week, unfortunately, my ego took a trip down a lane which should have had a clear No Entry sign – I blundered back into flat pack furniture. As an avid book buyer, the years have given me a certain expertise in assembling cheap bookcases. Covid encouraged the online purchase of garden chairs that came together quite well. In a moment of sheer insanity 10 days ago, my wife and I embarked on a search and buy mission for some fitted wardrobes.
The first mistake was to decide that it would be fun to use our free bus travel to visit a well-known flat pack specialist. Four hours later (bus timetables have never been my speciality) we landed in a shopping estate of staggering size. According to Google maps, our desired destination was a 13-minute walk from the bus stop. That may have been accurate for Usain Bolt but unlikely for us. It took about half an hour in a light drizzle and involved crossing what seemed perilously like two motorways. Landfall was a store where the only way was up, on foot. Cutting a long climb short, we found, finally, a charming Spanish lady who sat us down at her computer and built, magically, the wardrobe of our dreams on her screen. The price was right and close at hand a card machine accepted our eager payment.
Then the senorita began to print out the details of our delivery. It looked good with some minor caveats. Four drawers would have to be collected at a later unspecified date, a sliding door likewise, and two crucial hinge mechanisms were still in China. Not only still in China but never to be available in Scotland again. Resisting the urge to end a lifetime's affection for most things Spanish with a swish of my walking stick, we settled for a calmer acceptance that the shop's online service would solve all problems.
The online service consists of a text saying that Product A has arrived in store and you have 48 hours to order and collect. The store will not hold the item longer than 48 hours so one cannot stockpile all the missing bits. So far, a two-hour car journey has added four drawers to the cardboard pile in the garage. A friendly chat with a robot on the shop's website has confirmed that the Chinese are still playing hard to get over the crucial hinges. And a wee peep inside one of the cardboard boxes has revealed a maze of screw holes and pin fittings that look unlikely friends for shaky hands and fading eyesight.
There is no doubt a moral in this maze. A friendly local joiner has intimated that he could be a saviour 'but needs all the bits' before he will start. One jolly fact is that the Chinese parts will almost certainly arrive in the Hong Kong-owned port of Felixstowe, currently limping due to strike action by Unite. I have a horrible suspicion that my hinges are not going to play a big role in this battle between Britain's toughest union and Hong Kong's £30bn turnover owners. I am definite that, like Icarus, we aimed too high and are not going to enjoy the fall.
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