This week, I was going to write about cycling – a couple of weeks ago, I promised to start, having seen one too many photos of Agyness Deyn zipping around town à bicyclette. But now, I'm afraid, I can't.
It's not that I haven't started cycling, because I have. No, it's got more to do with the fact that, over the past fortnight, I've been engaged in a financial squabble so aggravating – so extremely frustrating – that I can't write about anything else. I can't think about anything else. I've become a bore to my friends, and it's time, I think, to take my laments elsewhere. To you. Cycling will have to wait.
It all began when I bought a fridge – an innocuous enough purchase, one might think. It certainly seemed that way when I handed over my card at John Lewis. But was a simple, summer-sale fridge-freezer turned into a 10-week saga of money spent, food wasted, and terrible customer relations.
Two weeks after my new toy arrived, so did a whole slew of problems. The temperature control went, so the fridge stayed warm while the freezer zoomed beyond arctic. All my food kept going off, blowing my groceries budget and creating huge waste. So I called the customer helpline, and booked an engineer for two weeks' time.
It was annoying that I had to wait that long, but whatever. It was OK. What was more annoying was that the only time the engineer was available was on a Thursday – a work day, at an unspecified time – which would mean performing all sorts of scheduling acrobatics, including arranging that my mother, bless her, would come round and spend the day waiting in my sparsely furnished, television-deficient flat with nothing to do but read back issues of Vogue. But whatever. It was fine.
Then the engineer called – when I was on the way to work and Mum was already two Vogues into the day – and cancelled, curtly informing me that I wouldn't be able to book another appointment until several weeks later.
Several weeks later! They'd wasted not only my time but also my mother's. At least, I thought, the next appointment was booked for a Saturday, an easy day to keep free, which is precisely what I did, setting my alarm for 6.45am, ensuring that I was ready for the start of the 7am visiting window. But they didn't arrive at 7am – or at eight, nine or 10am. At noon, I received another call: the engineer had turned up at the wrong address, at a house in north-west London. I live in a flat in the East End. How could they have got it so wrong?
Finally, I took up email correspondence. For about 10 days, I engaged in virtual back-and-forths with a suitably unapologetic woman named Lorraine. Finally, we arranged for another engineer to come round on another Saturday. By this stage, I was desperate, so when they told me I'd have to pay for the service, I agreed. There was always the option, they said, of sending in my receipt and reclaiming the charge.
That was last weekend. Unfortunately – and this should come as no surprise – our appointment didn't happen. Once again, I got a call at 5pm on Friday, informing me of the engineer's unavailability. I was apoplectic. I went into overdrive, pleading and shouting in equal measure. And then I did what I'd promised myself I wouldn't do: I told them that I was a journalist and that if they weren't bloody careful, I'd write about them all.
Suddenly everything changed – five minutes later, I got another call, offering me a brand new fridge to be delivered in a week's time. Of course I took it – what else would you do? – but, really, should you have to threaten bad press before anything gets done?
At least, by the time you read this, I should either have a functioning fridge-freezer, or have one on the way. We'll see. If I don't... well, bicycles may have to wait for another week.
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