Life is... pushing all the right buttons on the wrong remote control

Or I could press 'Play' via the evil internet

Monty Python TV viewer

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Mrs Dabbsy is getting cross. I know this because she has said "grrrr".

People don't often say "grrrr" in everyday conversation so it's noticeable when they do. Either that or you are inadvertently chatting with Tony the Tiger over a bowl of over-sugared breakfast cereal.

The target of The Glowing One's ire (this time) is the TV remote control. Except it's not the TV remote control, is it? It's just one of the several remotes we seem to have acquired along with our consumer durables over recent years, and they are littered all over the place.

There are five arranged on the coffee table in front of her and she tries each in turn. Her tenacity is admirable but none seems to respond. Have the batteries run flat? No, I can see the LED lighting up every time she squeezes down determinedly on one of them.

Basically, each remote control is a hideous slab of cheap plastic covered in ghastly rubber buttons labelled with incomprehensible hieroglyphs whose sole purpose is to make a little red light illuminate at one end.

If I'd taken one of these with me to school back in the 1970s it would have attracted a crowd but today it's just a stupid bloody gadget that won't work with the stupid bloody machine it came supplied with. Grrrr. Pass the Frosties would you, Tony?

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Temporarily incapacitated on the sofa opposite with the cat curled up on my chest, I switch into training mode. Using measuredly enunciated tones, I offer clear verbal directions to Madame D on how to navigate the remote control's rubbery interface and arcane operating system.

"What 'Disc Menu'?" she responds. "There's no button for 'Disc Menu'. There's only a 'Menu' and I'm pressing it." She presses it again. She presses it harder. The LED glows brighter. She even says "grrrr" with greater determination and even more tenacity – hey, it's worth a try.

She must be using the wrong remote control. I switch out of training mode and into hostage negotiation mode, my softer-toned voice gently coaxing her to put the remote down slowly and stand back. After a moment's indecision, she complies and I nod to the S.W.A.T. Team to lower their rifles.

But which remote control is the one we need? And why are we trying to play a disc for goodness' sake? Netflix or Prime aren't good enough for the likes of us, is that it?

Well, sort of. A year ago, the tenacious Mrs D began playing catch-up on weak British TV crime thrillers from days gone by. At the time they first appeared in the 1980s and 90s, we considered such interminable series as Inspector Morse and Poirot to be archetypes of utter naffness. Now middle aged, we thought that enough of our brain cells had died over the intervening years for us to give these programmes a second chance.

From Morse and Poirot we progressed to Lewis and Maigret and branched out from there.

I even suffered to watch a number of episodes of Bergerac until my wife eventually put me out of my misery by saying "This is utter crap, isn't it?" and proceeded to delete the remaining unwatched 4,000 episodes from the Sky box. This is just as well as I was terrified she might actually sit through them all before moving on to fucking Lovejoy.

Just before last Christmas, she discovered the Northern European crime genre known as Scandi Noir and therein began our remote control troubles. I checked out their availability online but only half-heartedly because my experience of TV and movie streaming over the internet has been unfulfilling.

That is to say, it doesn't work. In other words, it's shite.

Every time I've tried one of these paid-for services, it ends the same way: I set it all up in advance so we can sit down later to watch, whereupon the streaming service decides at that very moment to demand I enter a 47-character password (one that I last typed when I first thought it up 19 months earlier) comprising upper and lower-case characters, digits, dashes, slashes, hashes, gashes and assorted emoji from the 'sexual organs' set, all using the crappy wobbly buttons on my remote control.

My wife makes coffee and reads a book while I make the mandatory five attempts to get past this dick-for-brains login system, and then I discover that although it previously accepted my payment, it has suddenly changed its mind in a huff, is now refusing to recognise my credit card and has duly notified the police.

By the time this is all sorted out, my wife has gone to bed, so I have to watch the movie on my own. This is just as well because it freezes after three seconds and goes no further.

Thankfully, my town's local lending library is plentifully stocked with Scandi Noir crime dramas on DVD, alongside tales of fictional policemen from all over the world.

Playing a DVD is easy. No login, credit card or buffering.

Unfortunately, the DVD player introduced yet another remote control to the living room and somehow queered the pitch by its addition. It was, if you like, one remote too far. It looks so much like the others that you end up picking up the wrong one, pressing lots of unresponsive buttons and saying "grrrr" quite a lot.

Its appearance has also triggered a Fortean side-effect: the remote controls appear to have mated and produced offspring.

At the last count, we had ten of the little buggers, and they roam around the house at night: I keep finding them in the kitchen, bathroom or on a shelf in the hallway. They are small; many are featureless. Even I don't know what some of them are for. It's possible they are for devices I no longer own. One is definitely for the Playstation 3 (or maybe the 2) that's in the loft but how – or indeed why – it made its own way downstairs into the living room remains a mystery.

I've written before about the difficulty of managing several remote control handsets but things have got completely out of hand. They are now multiplying like tribbles.

Don't tell me to combine the functions of the main remotes onto a single app on my smartphone. I tried that. All that happens is that I have to manage all my tribbles on a tiny screen instead of on a coffee table, and every time I press a button, it sends a signal to my router, across the internet, logs my request into the database of an evil corporation situated halfway around the world and returns via Katmandu and the North Pole back to my router and eventually to my TV. Or DVD player. Or something.

It can take up to a minute just to trigger the Play button this way – by which time you've pressed it 100 times while saying "grrrr" a lot and end up having to watch a movie that stops and starts 100 times over the next hour and a half.

My wife is now pressing the rubber button so forcefully that I can hear the plastic of the remote control case creaking. Giving up, she hunts around the room with characteristic tenacity for another device. She discovers one next to the telephone. She finds another of its creepy progeny has found its way inexplicably into the fruit bowl. Maybe it was hungry.

Still reclining with the cat, I reach down the back of the sofa cushions and find two more remote controls. One of them is for the DVD player. Hurrah, at last we get to watch more episodes of Nobpollishen and Inspektor Krotchlik.

Until the day I can afford an integrated home entertainment system with a single access point, we are determined to carry on with our expanding family of remote controls. It's a lot of work but worth it in the end.

In the D household, we are nothing if not tenacious.

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. Two worrying thoughts have occurred to him. (1) It could be that he actually enjoys playing around with multiple remote controls, like some gadget-obsessed sad bastard. (2) His inability to recognise which remote is which at a glance could be the onset of the terrifying tenacious D(ementia).

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