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Archive for January, 2011

Astute readers – who knows, there must be a few – will have spotted that I’m a girl who’s easily puzzled. If I had to pick out a single phenomenon that just eludes my grasp, I would have to go for broke and say …. modernity! Taxpayers spent a lot of money educating me – thanks guys, that was sweet of you – and presumably there was an expectation I’d be completely prepared for life. But much of modern life puzzles me.

More than anything else, I am baffled by people queuing to buy new gadgets, like iPhones or iPads. They are just bits of metal that do jobs the things you already own can probably do quite well. And yet people queue up for days like they were waiting for relief flights into Darfur. Surely not having to queue for stuff in shops is the reason we fought the Cold War? Can there have been a more important reason? I can confidently predict I will never queue up for anything with the prefix ‘i’ – unless it is an iRobertDowneyJnr covered in iChocolate waiting to whisk me off to an iVilla in iTuscany.

Truth be told, however, it’s not just the queuing, it’s the gadets themselves. I won’t queue for items that, for all the buzz, lack crucial features I would consider essential for my fast-paced executive life. For one thing, you can’t get an app that tells you a small child has got hold of your phone and is advancing with menaces upon a toilet. Such an app would have saved two phones of mine. One of those was drowned on Christmas Day, doubtless to re-enact how baby Jesus threw a lump of frankinsense into a toilet in the stable. You can’t get an app to tell you your phone is in dangerous proximity to your caffeinated beverage and is likely to reach a murky demise. Two further phones went to their watery graves by this method.  You can’t get an app that senses you have forgetten your phone is in your pocket and is about to be put into the washing machine. Thus was I parted from four phones in two years.

Furthermore, you can’t get an app that tells you when a child is about to ring a total stranger in Clonmel. You can’t get an app to find your charger for you. You can’t get an app to remind you to put your phone on silent at the cinema. Okay, you could conceivably put a reminder in your phone to tell you to switch it off, but you definitely can’t get an app that will tazer the annoying person complaining in the seat behind you when your phone rings in the cinema. And you can’t get an app that tells you your husband has gone out without his phone. Anyone can see how handy these things would be.

Most sadly of all, you can’t get an app that congratulates you for having kept a phone for a whole year without having it succumb to the toilet or the washing machine or a cup of coffee or having it get lost or just having it surrender and die after having fallen out of your pocket twelve times too often. Because thus I arrive at my big personal growth. Such an anniversary is what I will be celebrating next week, assuming I’m not jinxing matters here. I am getting the bizarre thrill of having a phone die of old-age. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the same phone for a year. My oldest child is eight-and-a-half, so it’s not tricky to work out. This run of broken phones coincided with a period of impressive growth for Nokia so of course my new-found streak of longevity has caused their current decline. I’m prepared to own up to having caused a good chunk of Europe’s economic decline. But what many might see as my immense carelessness and misfortune with phones, I am quite happy to look upon as an early protype of an economic stimulus package.

Ideallly, not only should an app congratulate you on keeping a phone for a year but it should also text all your mates and invite them for a celebratory drink. Of course, in my case, the celebratory drink would have to be kept carefully away from the phone, for fear of causing yet another phone to meet an ignominous, fluid-related demise.

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My first Dyson vacuum cleaner died in the summer after eleven years of faithful service.  Let me assure you that it did not die from over-use, as I am not a diligent hausfrau.  I would have liked it better if it had died closer to the January sales, as I didn’t have the shekels to replace it until now.  But I won’t speak ill of the dead.  I bought my second Dyson vacuum cleaner today.  Already I am a new woman.

My first Dyson was a DC05.  It was one of the few purchases in my life where I was, for one all-too-brief shining moment, exactly ‘on trend.’  There were very few after that.   Dysons at the time were, as my mother would say, the thing.  Ours was such an extravagant purchase that we had to buy it interest-free over twelve months on our ESB bill.  I owned a Dyson before I owned a fridge or a car.  For that matter, I owned a Dyson before I owned a husband (insofar as I own him now).  It was an impossibly grown-up purchase for a young couple to make and yet we launched at it with great gusto, spurred on by a love of daring and innovative new design and also having more money than sense.  And furthermore by the realisation that the bags for the very old vacuum cleaner in our rented house had been discontinued.  It was, as they say, a perfect storm.

The DC05 died in the summer.  I was on unpaid leave and could not afford a replacement model.  So as an interim solution I bought the cheapest vacuum cleaner in Argos.  It was more of an interim solution than I had anticipated, since when you buy the cheapest vacuum cleaner in Argos, that’s exactly what you get.  Trying to remove the dirt from my floors by developing powers of telekinesis would have been quicker.  Not only was it a thoroughly useless vacuum cleaner, but it turned a chore I merely disliked into one I loathed and did everything in my power to avoid.  This included fighting over it with my Present Husband.  And we have enough to be fighting about as it is.  So when the Argos surrogate died in November, it was a sweet release.  A few weeks of borrowing various models off my neighbours ensued until the sales and today I headed out to buy my second piece of Dysonalia.

I now own a DC29.  Much has changed, it would appear, in the iterations that I assume were called DC06 to DC28.  My new vacuum is an outrageously sleek appliance.  For example, this part

is more high-tech and stylish than my car.  (That is not humorous hyperbole or false modesty.  See here if you don’t believe me.)  There were sleek, futuristic versions of the same little tools that I didn’t know what to do with eleven years ago and promptly lost.  But look at them now, all sleek and futuristic and on my landing.  Every piece fits together with that smooth, satisfying click you get only from something designed by a group of guys who never got laid in their teens.   It was a noble sacrifice on their part.

I found myself admiring it for an inordinately long time and realised I was scared to switch it on.  I had built up such high expectations, surely it would disappoint.  I had come to expect that not only would it clean my house but it would also make us rich and along the way cure some terrible disease.  But it was either switch it on or admit I had spent Visa’s hard-earned money on an ill-advised, bulky ornament.  It came to life with a thunderous whoosh, more like a DC10.  And by that I mean the airplane.  I presume this is to let everyone in a two-mile radius know how stylish you are and how clean your carpets are.  And so I took to vacuuming with the zeal of a convert.   My DC29 ran riot over my carpets like a solo Visigoth.  There was even some surprise at seeing once again what colour my stairs were.  Blue – who knew?  The spinning turbines in the head make a sort of crunching noise, which makes sucking up tiny pieces of  Lego so much more satisfying.  It’s an appliance that will give so much on so many levels.

Yes, I am like a child with a new toy – and a somewhat pathetic child at that – and I appreciate that this level of excitement is unsustainable.  But for another brief shining moment I am on trend.  Nonetheless, at the end of the day, it is only a vacuum cleaner.  It is not without flaws.  It does not have the capability to compel someone else to use it or to be operated by remote control.  It does not notice that the kids have trailed in mud and the place could do with a quick once over. You still have to act on the impulse to propel it around your house.  Some day a Dyson DC97 will come along to make my DC29 look like something from the Cro-Magnon Age.  It will not make me rich.  And it will never cure a disease.  Or, at least, it will never cure the disease of being a less than diligent hausfrau.

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