Since my recent computer sickness, and another minor hissy-fit it's thrown today, I've been thinking about my mum and the network of 'little men' she and her friends used to have. It's not quite what it sounds! Quite simply, all the ladies who lived on their own in her area used to share details of tradesmen they'd found to be trustworthy and to give good value for money. I'm not being sexist about this, of course - I'd be equally happy with a network of 'little women' - or big women, come to that (I'm not quite sure how the diminutive description came into it) - as long as they - men or women, big or little - knew their stuff and weren't about to charge me three or four-figure sums just to point out that I hadn't actually plugged something in or that I'd clicked on the wrong thing on the screen and turned off something crucial.
Or, as in the case of my supposed oven failure a couple of weeks ago, I'd cleaned the damned thing (always a mistake - they're much better left to sweat out the dirt on their own) - and accidentally nudged the tiny, tiny, knob that switches the oven from manual to automatic. With no times entered into the automatic controls (obviously I have no idea how to do that), it just sat there cold and sulking when I attempted to switch it on. The guy I called out because I assumed the oven had died or was at least terminally ill, looked at me kind-of pityingly and apologised for having to charge me, like a doctor writing a prescription for something really embarrassing and easily avoidable. But to be fair, he didn't charge the full whack, or so he said. How would I know?
This is my point, and this is where the 'Little Men' come in. Mum's network of trusted tradesmen was so comprehensive, and all these guys were called out so regularly by all the ladies in the area, that they were kept really busy and never lacked work, despite the fact that most of them charged much less than the average. Some of them were also prepared to do little odd jobs that some of the older ladies found difficult, for instance while they were at the house sorting out the plumbing or the electrics they might change a fuse, or shave a bit off a badly fitting door. And they knew they'd get a four-star recommendation on the Little Men Network.
Well, what I really want is a cheap and trusted network of little/big men/women for the following :
1. My regular computer tantrums. All I ask is that it works, every day, sends its e-mails without undue complaint and doesn't freeze or go off without permission.
2. Ditto car tantrums. I just need the thing to start, go, and stop. Preferably in that order.
3. Any undue peculiarities of TV or Sky-thing. I don't know how it records programmes, and I don't need to. I just need it to get on and do it, please, without telling me it's tried and failed. I can do trying and failing myself - I don't need a machine to do that.
4. Instances of things falling down or falling apart. I'm not good with mending. I can wield glue, needle & thread, pins or sellotape just fine, but the result always looks crap.
5. The worst thing of all: finance. Just the sight of my annual tax return form makes me tremble.
I think it might actually be an allergy. Can I get medication for it? I can't afford an accountant - ha! Show me a writer who can afford an accountant! So Poor Husband has to help, and put up with my trembling and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Surely there's a network, somewhere, of retired accountants who just love doing tax returns so much, they'd like to do a few as a hobby?
I'm sure there are other things to go on that list but I'm feeling faint now I've started thinking about the tax return so I'd better stop. But if anyone knows any reliable, cheap, little men/women, and wants to start a writers' network, give me a shout!