Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am not a fan of paperwork; in fact I don’t like any kind of administration or bureaucracy. Who does?
Yet our lives are controlled by it. At work and at home there are endless forms to fill in; endless pieces of paper that need to be checked and filed.
As much as I dislike admin, I also like to know that I am up to date with everything. I get very worried if there is a bill or a document that I haven’t dealt with.
I think that stems back to the very early days of my broadcasting career. When I started working for the BBC I was employed on a totally freelance basis.
It meant that I was responsible for keeping timesheets to claim payments for the work I had done. It also meant I had to keep careful records for our dear friends at the tax office.
It terrified me!
I was also worried that I may have accidentally filed the wrong figures and that the tax authorities would come after me. In the end I handed all my paperwork to an accountant and let him worry about it.
Accountants must be among the few people who love paperwork and admin!
But that fear of forgetting to fill in the correct form, or accidentally forgetting to pay a bill has never left me, so I try to make sure I keep on top of all the paperwork, even though I hate it.
This has resulted in me hanging on to box files of forms, receipts and old bills for far longer than necessary.
So, last week I embarked on a mammoth sort out. I truly wish I’d never started.
I have discovered that one box file contained all the bills from the very first house I bought nearly 30 years ago.
Fascinating as it was to see how little the gas bill was in 1994 £30 pounds for a quarter – it was also a heart-sinking moment when I realised the scale of the sort out ahead of me.
I think I have mentioned before in this column that I have been tasked with sorting out the affairs of a relative who passed away last year.
He kept everything and lived to be 91, so you can imagine how much paperwork he left me to go through.
For instance, he had every television licence going back to the early 1950s.
I vowed I would never be like that and yet, when I started opening my own box files, lo and behold I am just as bad.
So far four large bags of shredded paper have gone out for recycling and there’s loads more to come.
It takes a methodical brain to keep paperwork in order and I find it too tedious.
But I also realise the importance of being able to quickly put your hand on form “B3174” or “A7654” when our dear friends at HMRC or the bank or the insurance company ask for it.
I have almost been caught out a few times recently and each time it reminded me why administration and bureaucracy are like some sort of evil tyrants in our lives.
In one case my bank decided to change the way my mortgage was set up. It was moved from one part of the bank to another. Don’t ask me why, I guess it’s keeping the admin staff gainfully employed.
Anyway, I was sent letters about it and was reassured it wouldn’t affect my mortgage and I didn’t need to do anything.
Ha! Not so! A few weeks later I happened to check my bank statement and realised the wrong amount had been paid for the mortgage. It was nearly half of what I should have been paying.
Nice as that was, I knew it was a mistake so called them. They apologised and said they would double the amount back to where it should be.
Guess what? They took the original figure and doubled that instead. So now I was about to pay twice the monthly amount I should be.
It has resulted in several letters from the bank promising it has all been sorted now. In the meantime I will have to buy another box file for all the new paperwork.
As you may remember from a previous column I have been dithering over changing my car. Well I finally did it. Sadly this is a transaction that also generates lots of paperwork.
The man in the garage asked for my address but just wanted the postcode and house number. I gave it to him, he put it in his computer and hey presto said he’d found my address.
He didn’t read it back to me and I never thought to check.
When I got home and summoned up the strength to find the box file marked “car” to file all the paperwork, I realised he had entered totally the wrong address. Not even the correct area or house number.
It seems he was one letter out in the postcode and that brought up an entirely different address. I apologise if you have been receiving letters about my car.
Ironically we are constantly being pushed to go “paperless”.
Utility companies and banks are among those who want to stop sending paperwork to save money and the planet.
But the minute something goes wrong it’s the paperwork everyone wants to see.
How did we become such slaves to form filling?
Anyway, I have another important rendezvous with the shredder. Wish me luck!
Bye for now.