Real life

Melissa Kite: I can turn a picnic into a panic attack

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

20 July 2013

9:00 AM

You know you’re in bad shape when you need to make a list before you go to the GP. Admittedly, the list was on a Post-it note but it was in alphabetical order. Coincidentally, it also worked its way from the top of me, starting with my mouth Abscess, through the Eczema on my hands and then further south to something which landed me with the dilemma of not being able to decide whether to list it by its scientific name, which would begin with H, or in the vernacular, which would be P.

In any case, every section of my anatomy from my face to my feet was afflicted with something gruesome. While I am usually the first to admit that the only thread in my varied illnesses is hypochondria, all the conditions on my Post-it list did have a valid common denominator.

My long-suffering GP surveyed me with her customary look of disgust. Lip curled, like she was looking at a piece of out-of-date bacon, she said, ‘You need to find a way to deal with stress.’

‘Yes, yes, I know,’ I said. But this is easier said than done. I manufacture stress. It’s my main output. It’s a natural by-product I have been proudly producing for nearly 42 years. If I had my name above a shop door or on a van my slogan would say ‘Kite Ltd. Trusted purveyors of stress since 1972’.

Give me a picnic in the sunshine and I will turn it, via a process as efficient as photosynthesis, into gut-wrenching anxiety. So when I actually collide with a situation that is genuinely stressful I implode.


To wit: the second-hand car dealership that sold me the Volvo has been shut down. By the police.

Days after I went in to complain that my warranty booklet had no policy documents inside, half a dozen squad cars descended on the place and arrested all ten of the salesmen. One of them, presumably, was the man who, while sweating all his bodily fluids on to the desk in front of him, issued me with some spurious warranty documents with a claim limit of £1,000.

When I rang the helpline on the paperwork the next day to check the policy, a damnably rude girl told me it was not active because the dealer had not entered all the relevant information. He might do in the next few days, she trilled. So I could phone back then if I wanted to. I do want to, I said.

In the meantime, I went online and wrote an excoriating review warning other customers to steer clear. A day later when I went back to check if any readers had commented, someone had posted that the place had been raided. Surrey Police’s website confirmed that an investigation was under way after ‘a warrant was executed at an address in Dorking’.

When I rang the police they said they couldn’t tell me anything else ‘for data protection purposes’ and advised me to ring Trading Standards. They put me through to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau who took the details and gave me a reference number, if you please.

But what about my warranty? And what about my Volvo? Could it really be true that two years after I bought a Volvo I couldn’t then afford to insure because immediately after purchasing it I was involved in a whiplash scam, and which I then gave to my father, and which was then stolen off his driveway and used as a getaway car, I had now bought a Volvo from a man who weeks later was arrested and thrown in a prison cell?

Surely not. Even I am not that fated, am I? That was when I started to stress. I really am that fated, I told myself. Everything I touch turns to scandal and fraud. I’m like a walking Watchdog investigation. It’s like I have a terrible gift, one that makes me detect consumer problems that normal humans pass by oblivious to.

I have made myself, possibly by a process of non-stop complaining, into a version of the little boy who is the only one who can see Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. ‘I see dead people!’ says the poor blighter in the movie. Well, I see rip-off merchants. And it is a gift I wish I did not have.

I would like to live a quiet life, blissfully unaware of unfairness and sharp practice. I want to ride my horses and walk my dog and buy myself a car, or a parking permit, or an egg and cress sandwich, or have my house re-wired, or my boiler serviced without colliding with a scandal. Is it too much to ask? Is there any way back?

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Show comments
  • cjcellosociety

    I’m afraid there is no way back Melissa. You’ve cultivated an imaginative brain that has brought smiles to the faces of so many who read your column. Your stress is our fun. Yes, it does sometimes border on the neurotic and you don’t want us to worry about you, so do relax. A daily dose of meditation rather than medication is in order I think.

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