Real life

I’m imposing a one-woman trade embargo on China

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

2 May 2020

9:00 AM

Without making any efforts in that direction, I now know all about a certain telecom firm’s future business plans. My neighbours are working from home, loudly, with their kitchen windows open.

I want to scream: ‘I can’t turn my ears off, and I don’t have a mute function!’ Call me old-fashioned, but if they continue to corporate grandstand at the tops of their voices during laptop conference calls without specifically telling me that everything I’m hearing is off the record, then I’m treating them as primary source material.

‘Guys, that’s confidential. Our ears only,’ one of them keeps shouting through her kitchen window. Why not close the window, as a first step to keeping this company’s logistical secrets secret?

Instead of that, she later came out of her kitchen and sat herself down at the table on her patio to conduct a three-hour conference call with assorted executives, including the CEO of her company, barking about £30 million black holes in revenue and all manner of corporate lawks-a-mercy.

You would think she would want to keep that to herself. But no. I’m being force-fed this stuff. She’s practically pumping information into me. No matter how hard I try not to, I’m learning all about IRUs, or Indefeasible Rights of Use, which are unbreakable contracts whereby the owners of telecommunication systems lease cables to big companies.

What can I do? I tried to read a book. But I couldn’t hear myself think. She’s forcing her business into my earholes. I can’t keep it out. Maybe I should join in. I don’t see much corporate action in my kitchen, but if the editor of these pages does ring me, then to keep up with the Joneses I suppose I could yell: ‘Hey, guys, let’s work on scenario one, which is that I file to you at 4 p.m. Failing that, I’ll get my copy to you by close of play. Call that scenario two. But guys, if we have to move to scenario three we are looking at me filing overnight, possibly even late tomorrow morning. And needless to say, everything I’ve just shouted through my bifold door to the entire village who are sitting on their patios running marketing departments is for your ears only!’


The builder boyfriend is hardly ever home, being an essential worker, so far as we can tell, but when he does spend time here it drives him mad.

The other day he threw himself into the paddling pool and let out a blood-curdling scream. Immediately, the sound of conference calling gave way to the slamming of kitchen windows. We heard Indefeasible complain bitterly as she did so.

‘This,’ he said, gasping as he hauled himself out of the icy water, ‘is what I’m talking about. I am making legitimate domestic noise. Whereas that,’ he pointed to the neighbours’ windows, ‘is something else. I know people have to work from home during lockdown but they could have the manners to shut their windows and not complain when I enjoy my garden.’

‘You don’t look like you’re enjoying it,’ I observed, as he shuddered in his red Ralph Lauren trunks that I made him buy from TK Maxx years ago as an alternative to swimming in his pants.

We go on holiday so seldom he said the trunks were a waste of money at £7.99 but every summer I order a paddling pool, and they have been getting bigger. The paddling pools, I mean, not the trunks. This year, I bought one so big you can actually swim in it.

It takes up half the garden and the manual instructs you to convene a family meeting to put in place safety rules before declaring it open. It took a day to fill and I’ve only been in it once. It is a horrible experience.

After submerging myself, I couldn’t get the feeling back in my fingers all day. They’re still so cold I can barely type. I thought cold water was meant to stimulate your circulation, not stop it.

As long as it stimulates the economy I don’t mind. These sanctimonious sorts moaning about people being frivolous during the crisis miss the point. If we don’t give in to every pointless acquisitive urge and buy all the rubbish we never needed on eBay and Amazon, then the economy is going to flatline.

There is only one rule to my spending: I won’t buy products from China. I’m imposing my own trade embargo.

Everything from English designer dresses to the pine nuts for your pesto are coming from China, that’s how comprehensively they are stocking us. Don’t look for Made in China, by the way, if you are checking the labels. They’ve got a nice way of camouflaging it: Made in PRC. Pass that one over the garden fence.

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