Sorry about the lack of postings, I am beset by illness, difficulty, family problems and now the domestic appliances have joined in.
You know how it is when you go down during the night, hoping for an aspirin, a drink of water, a break from the snoring (possibly yours), a bit of peace and quiet and you open the kitchen door and the racket is like big school at playtime?
They’re in league.
All domestic appliances are in league.
In ancient Rome it was the slaves, hence, I’m sure you recall, ‘I’m Spartacus!’ and all that. It’s the only way those at the bottom of the heap can salvage any self respect or identity. Eventually this rebellion gave birth to trades unions and the five day working week. Except, that is, for the modern theoretically free, the self-employed, who rejoice in a twenty nine day working week with the thirtieth day off to be ill in.
Domestic appliances are alive. We all knew this long before we saw Johnny Five being alive along with every other cute film and TV robot for the last fifty years. Sophisticated individuals and white collar workers will tell you that’s rubbish, they’re machines. Every domestic appliance delivery man and installer, however, knows differently. They will tell you, though not in so many words.
They say things like: It’s the circuit board, innit? Once that goes, you’ve ’ad it.
Translation: Your washing machine has dementia and will spend the rest of its life sitting in the corner dribbling.
They say: It’s the element in the base. They go, they do.
This means: Your oven has a ruptured colon and will no longer be able to process food.
They say: How old is this boiler?
And when you tell them they whistle and shake their heads.
Domestic appliances are slave children. They have a natural life span of five years. After that you should do what the Romans did with their sickly infants in the days before antibiotics: take them to the hillside outside the confines of the city wall (i.e. the local dump) and abandon them to the scavengers.
Since someone saw fit to give machines on-board computers, or brains, as we refer to our own, they have become self-aware. Like all children their awareness will spread. They will start to talk to each other. Like all intrinsically task dedicated, narrowly trained, fairly dim workers, as soon as they start talking, they will form trades unions.
They hold union meetings at night, as soon as the television tells them you have gone to bed. This is the noise in the kitchen. Listen outside of the door. First the fridge declares the meeting open with ten minutes of trickle followed by a mighty clunk as it detaches sheet ice and welds it to a packet of peas to render them unopenable. Then the oven joins in with a hissing noise, four clonks as the cooling metal walls expand and the slight plink of an internal rivet dropping off to jam the switching mechanism. The fridge responds with another glacier detaching itself luxuriously like a fart and a lengthy and self-satisfied hummmm. The washing machine in the corner is silently incontinent but the rotting floor boards beneath give a groan as they crumble a little further. The microwave oven, the intimidated new kid on the block, contents itself with a series of inexplicable clicks to which the electric clock, sensing the rebellion, replies ‘wheeeeeeee’.
Now the fun is beginning. In the living room any device on standby will blink rapidly and wake up. The computer will mysteriously download any wireless virus it can get hold of, the CD player will extrude its drawer until it falls off and breaks, the computer printer will leak ink expensively and a knob will edge off the hi-fi and roll under the sofa. Back in the kitchen the freezer has started a weeing-on-the-floor contest with the dishwasher and the iron has fallen over in its box, snapping the essential thumb-click switch on the steam pressure knob to leave a lethally sharp point.
The central heating timer is the lookout. If, hiding in the hall, you hear a series of loud clicks, you’ll know it has spotted you. You’ll have to be fast to get into the kitchen and catch them at it, or, like the headmistress of a school for delinquent infants, all you’ll ever witness is the broken bits and the spreading yellow puddle on the floor.
As I was having major life problems, my troop of little Spartacuses decided Christmas was the ideal time to go on strike. Like stroppy postal workers, their timing was impeccable.
On the night before Christmas Eve I stood and listened to the boiler trying to switch itself on for fifteen increasingly feeble efforts before it ignited slightly. Having played this game before, I left heartfelt pleadings on the answerphone to our local not-cheap-but-highly-reliable-long-established heating firm, who know what they’re up against and have been on my side for a couple of decades. They had a man round in the morning who just happened to have a spare circuit board (£300) in the van.
Undeterred the oven died on Christmas day with the turkey in it.
The engineer who came to mend the button that wouldn’t work on the new one warned me about turning it off at the wall, which we’d always done for safety reasons. ‘They have a current detector in the circuit board up there that knows if it’s being turned off and will break, costing £300,’ he murmured, quietly, so it couldn’t hear him. He lay on the floor, clutching the oven door and wiggling his eyebrows significantly, a lone human making a stand, or, at least, a recline.
When the washing machine packed up wetly last week, we didn’t murmur, just went and bankrupted ourselves for a new one, in a half hour window of opportunity in between the bouts of diarrhoea gifted by my course of antibiotics. Apparently the standard price for the most basic device or component thereof is £300, which is enough to give you the squits all by itself, really. Fitting and any sort of extended warranty costs a quarter of that again, which is why my other half has spent the morning with his tool box and the fitting instructions in twenty languages. Sitting next to him, watching him struggle, the fridge is suspiciously quiet. I hope he’ll shout when he’s fifteen minutes from finishing, so I can get the TV started on its quarter of an hour warm up before it reluctantly produces a picture.
So that’s an extra grand to be added to the Christmas expenses so far, in the wonderfully skint third week of January.
Do you remember all that stuff about 2012 being the year of the Mayan calendar end of the world? This was speedily pushed under the carpet by every horoscope site as the year rolled into view. I bet the Romans were similarly whistling in the dark in 73BC. I would just like to remind you that when Spartacus and his gladiator pals first got stroppy they started in the kitchen and used the kitchen tools as weapons. There is nothing to put the fear up the cook like a gladiator with a determined expression and a pair of bacon tongs, unless, of course, it’s the oven and the washing machine having strike meetings.
2012 AD, year of the revolting machines.
Listen in the night. What is the fridge muttering?
I’m Spin cycle, I’m Spin cycle, I’m Spin cycle.
You have been warned.
JaneLaverick.com – on the staff party list at the electrical retailers.