That's what it feels like, as I sit here spitting pins and tearing my hair, as night falls far too early and my partner's away attending to unfinished family business in another country. I expect I'm not alone and some folk will tell me they've faced far worse, like the floods in the north east after all that rain. I feel for them. I don't know how they cope. I don't think I could. But I can only tell my own story.
First up is the tech company EE. Some weeks back, I took my eye off the ball, forgot to do my homework, and allowed my partner to bounce me into moving from BT, our broadband provider since I first needed one, to EE, with whom I had understood BT was merging. Not so in fact. They advertise together under the BT Group umbrella, but remain mutually exclusive competitive companies. I had a smartphone contract with EE. So when the option was suggested to us that we could have a new package of wifi, TV and phones altogether cheaper, in these days of endlessly spiralling costs I was persuaded to take it up.
Unfortunately, the salesman was a whippersnapper. I even asked him if he was still at school. And he didn't ask the essential questions, like: have you an existing broadband contract? No, he said all would be smooth and we barely needed to move a muscle other than to sign on the dotted line. Caveat emptor
. How did I forget?
So when a letter came through the post subsequently, advertising 'BT and EE, The Perfect Partnership', containing BT's crocodile tears at being 'sorry to lose us' and a farewell bill of over £400 as our charge for leaving our broadband contract early, I was more than distinctly dischuffed. However, after three separate revisits to the shop and several phone calls split between BT and EE, mirabile dictu
, the charge has been waived.
I can't fault the staff who have dealt with my complaint. They were concerned and sympathetic, as well they might be. When my wifi disappeared along with all our TV channels, they arranged for an engineer to come and check things out. The wifi was soon restored at the flick of a power switch at the back of the router. The TV channels were less compliant. However, after a day or so in a completely quiet house, they miraculously reappeared on our smart TV in our sitting-room. The one in the kitchen currently still refuses to be programmed. It's not so smart. Even the engineer had no success with it. I thought I could leave it for now, but then friends began emailing me saying they couldn't get through to me on our landline, although I can phone out. That has still to be sorted.
Meanwhile, the whippersnapper is still employed. He can be spotted at a hundred yards wearing the largest, bright scarlet trainers I have ever seen. Says it all, I think.
Next up is Edinburgh City Council. I had reason to complain not so long ago about the 16 feet of bike pods they unceremoniously dumped outside our house over a year ago. The councillor I summoned to see the effect carefully socially distanced himself. He didn't want to get too close. He wasn't much help. We all need to exercise more and get on our bikes, he said. Then he got astride his and tootled off. He has not been re-elected.
The councillors who have are much more sympathetic. The issue now is not about the bike pods, although they remain in place, but the council's new policy of communal bin hubs.
Some 20 years ago, after we moved here, to what was then a pleasant small residential crescent of mixed housing and a small private garden with trees in the middle, we were confronted with the council's first roll out of large black communal bins with slots for bottles and lids against inclement weather. Ugly and unwelcome from the start, these have now deteriorated as you might expect. Grafittied, vandalised, dented, missing lids, smelly, dirty, targets of fly tippers and arsonists, not to mention the sound of bottles crashing into the bottle banks at any time of the day or night, they really have lowered the tone of the place. Now we are due to get full scale industrial-sized communal bin hubs to replace them. This we do not want.
However, this time more of us have been energised to take action. We've made representations to the local community council and got our three local councillors on side. We have a meeting with council officials on 14 December, the planned rollout of hubs being meanwhile put on hold. Lawyers will be consulted. One of the problems is that these huge communal bins are not fit for residential areas. They're more suitable for commercial or industrial locations. They reduce amenity, encourage all and sundry to drop their rubbish off and diminish property values. It almost makes you nostalgic for the days when the foxes came by at night and gnawed their way through our black plastic bin bags. They were annoying but it was individual. You cleared up your own mess. It didn't last for days, weeks, months, years on end.
And then there's been the superfast broadband cable-laying along the streets. No warning, except for yellow plastic notices on lampposts telling you to remove your cars from the street for a period of five days. It took the diggers the full five days to arrive. You woke up to the sight and grinding sound of several mini diggers crunching their way along the pavement, throwing up grit and dust as they went. You couldn't have manoeuvred a wheelchair or a mobility scooter outside for days, and still the work is unfinished. A fair old shambles indeed.
Gillean Somerville-Arjat is a writer and critic based in Edinburgh