Mary Dejevsky: Help – can't live with it, but sometimes you can't live without it



Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that my generation of women is uniquely bad at delegating. We came on the scene far too late to have servants – oh, how we need them! – and just too late to be satisfied with staying at home as wives and mothers. A combination of self-reliance and, often justified, concern that no one else would meet our exacting standards left us with the idea that if we didn't do something, no one else would.

We thought not only that we could have it all, but that we should do it all as well. Perhaps it's advancing age and the occasional creaking joint, but there comes a time when another reality sets in – and it has its benefits.

This spring, for complicated reasons, we had less than a week to pack up and vacate our house in France. There was not the slightest chance we could do it ourselves. I asked the woman who had kept an eye on it over the years if she could help. Through contacts and the internet, I found a remover who took loads between the two countries and could just fit in the date required. We weren't going to get back in time to receive our belongings, so we could only trust that the removers would divide them up, as asked, between our flat and the block's basement store.

Everything went like clockwork. The packing was half-done when we arrived at the French house after a two-day drive. The (British) removers (one man and his wife with a van) arrived exactly when they said they would, worked with one cup of coffee and no break until everything was in the van, and, when we arrived back in the UK a week later, everything was where we had asked it to be. Who says the British can't or won't work? They can, they really can.

It may be pure coincidence, but friends have been finding something similar – often in dealings with small family companies. From caterers to flower-arrangers to – alas, this reflects our age, too – funeral directors, there are people doing a terrific job, being efficient, pleasant to deal with and reliable.

These aren't the metropolitan plumbers who charge as much as lawyers per hour and still have to be called back to solve the problem. Nor are they utilities companies that ensure a single repair costs as much as an annual insurance contract, so you're stung for £200 plus, whatever. They are small businesses doing a more-than-fair day's work for what in my book is a fair day's pay. That's what they're there for, and if you have a full-time job, it's delusory to believe you can do everything else as well.

Then again, the delivery company has just delivered the wrong Sunday paper for the umpteenth time this year. Time to cancel the order and go to get it myself!

Here's the sort of public art we need

I haven't been very complimentary about public art in Britain over the years. From the Animals in War memorial on London's Park Lane to The Meeting Place statue at St Pancras station to the Angel of the North, there is a pervasive banality. If not that, then a disparity in scale. Barry Flanagan's boxing hares outside the British Council – replaced last year by a statue of Yuri Gagarin – was too small for the space, and hard to see against the busy backdrop.

But one building has been consistent in its original and striking use of space. The Channel 4 headquarters in Westminster has a vast figure four in front of its entrance. Last year, it was covered in a diverting collection of coloured umbrellas that brought smiles to the faces of passers-by.

For the Olympics and Paralympics, the "Big 4" has been transformed into an amalgam of a discus-thrower and a wheel that doubles as a wheelchair. This Monument to the Unintended Performer was designed by Tony Heaton, who himself uses a wheelchair, but the image encapsulates the spirit of both Olympics and Paralympics. It is huge, elegant and at once comprehensible on several levels. It deserves to have a life after this summer's sports fest is over. An honourable place, perhaps, in the made-over Olympic Park?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn