How Difficult

Do you feel that you spend too much time on life’s trivia? You know the sort of thing – dealing with gas or electricity bills, coping with computer or broadband problems or just keeping the household running okay.

A certain amount of time is acceptable, but sometimes there is a problem that refuses to be fixed easily. You try one thing, then another and nothing works – and you end up having a very bad day.

This happened to me recently when I needed to buy – of all prosaic things – a mop.

Broken mop

 It was about two weeks ago. My mop handle broke – in just the same way its predecessor had done before. I decided I not only needed a new mop, but perhaps a new kind of mop.

I asked my very savvy neighbour what type of mop she would recommend. I won’t bore you with the details, but she suggested a particular type and brand (it was a mop and bucket set) and I thought the problem was solved. All I needed to do was to buy it.

Online shops

I am a great believer that you can buy anything online and very quickly.

I went to the online supermarket that I use regularly and could see no sign of this mop. Yes, they had the bucket, they even had refill mops for this brand, but the mop itself was nowhere to be seen.

So off I went to Amazon, the supplier that everyone loves and hates at the same time (but that’s another story). Yes, they had the mop, but not the bucket. I was informed that they would have the perfect ‘mop and bucket set’ in three weeks, even at a good price. But I wanted the mop now.

This was getting annoying.

Actual shops

I then remembered that there is a not too distant hardware store, which sometimes has such things as mops, although it tends to be overpriced. I wanted to phone to check, but didn’t have their name. And then I had a senior moment and couldn’t think of the right word for a hardware shop. Nor could my husband.

But somehow, it came to me and I phoned the shop. They had the mop, they said, but the price given was so low that I doubted if it was the right one. And the bucket would be just under £50 ($65). I even phoned back to see if I got that right.

Was it a silver-plated bucket? I have no idea, but I do not need a bucket for that price!

This was getting seriously annoying. I was definitely losing my cool.

Wider impact

Indeed, I was in such a state that I realised I needed to stop. I went off to make lunch.

This may have been a mistake. I was so riled up that I began to do stupid things with the stove and nearly burned the lunch.

I certainly managed to annoy my long-suffering and very relaxed husband. He told me he thought I was about to burn myself or even damage the house, never mind the lunch. I didn’t.

But it was not a relaxed time. I kept trying to explain what a problem I had had, but he said he wasn’t really interested in a mop. Conversation came to a stop.

And, indeed, who could blame him? How interesting can a mop be?

Buying a mop

After this break, I worked it out. I bought the mop from Amazon (it arrived the next day) and ordered the bucket from my online shop, with some other groceries, all of which were duly delivered a few days later.

That was that – a shiny new mop and bucket set.

After thoughts

Why do we get so annoyed at such trivia?  Is it just me on a bad day? No, I think little things can set anyone off from time to time. And the fact that it is a small thing just makes it worse. You know you should ‘do better’ when the issue isn’t all that serious.

I wondered whether it is the internet. Not really, I think, but it does raise our expectations that everything is available quickly. And things often are. But not always. We need to learn that and build it into our planning.

Think of our mothers – or, even more, our grandmothers – who would never had the luxury of dealing with such trivia so quickly. They would have needed to trudge down to actual shops, often some distance away, to find what they wanted. If they found it at all.

They would be amazed to see how easy it is for us today.


A version of this article has been published in my book, The Granny Who Stands on her Head: Reflections on Growing Older

(A version of this article was first published on SixtyandMe (see