My first wife once wrote an article which was published in The Guardian, about my inability to undertake even the most basic housework, with a special mention given to my pathetic attempts at pushing a Hoover around. It was an Electrolux, but you know what I mean. It was the early eighties, and I’m afraid there were still plenty of men like me who deployed such naff arguments as ‘We don’t mind if the bath is dirty’, that sort of thing.
Of course, many people now hoover with a Dyson, and great fame has been heaped on the head of its inventor, James Dyson, or Sir James Dyson, as he has been for the past two years. He is said to be worth a billion quid, but of course, we don’t know if he was investing in Icelandic banks. The big deal about Dysons is always supposed to be (a) that they are bagless and (b) that there is ‘no loss of suction’ (the big slogan). But I don’t think that’s the real appeal. The real appeal is that you can see what you’re doing – you can see the visible evidence of dirt, muck, mush come whizzing into the see-through cylinder. The first time I used a Dyson (yes, I’ve come on a bit), I was appalled and fascinated to watch it filling up. Of course, it may be that a Dyson is actually ripping up more of the carpet than is necessary, but it is still hypnotic to watch.
Obviously I can’t copyright this idea, but I wonder if there are inventors out there with a penchant for patents who have spotted this, and who might go a step further. For instance, take that hoary old philosophical question ‘How do I know the light goes off when I shut the fridge door?’ That could be knocked on the head if we had see-through fridges (I have in mind some kind of toughened perspex). It would probably also mean that we – by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, naturally – would organise the fridge a little more coherently, artistically, even. A further development might be to invent a gizmo that sat on each item, a gizmo which flashed when it reached the sell-by date.
The washing-machine is the next obvious one. Apart from solving the missing-sock problem, you could also see how the thing worked (I know in principle only), whether the filter was blocked (with mashed-up sock, doubtless), and also experience the same sense of horror at the colour of the water (or not?).
But why should we stop there? The dishwasher, for instance, and – here’s the big one – the computer. I have no idea what’s going on in that box, and it might be a good thing if I did. Of course, I am not expecting to be able to moonlight as a computer technician on the basis of seeing what’s in there, but I do feel as if it’s being deliberately hidden from me. Same with the television, although I suppose it might interfere with the picture.
And then there is the car. Including the seats. Then everyone could see how many 5p pieces were hidden beneath the seats. And we would all – I would all – have to spruce up the interior, out of shame. I would be able to see the engine at work. My ignorance of the internal combustion engine – actually, is that right? I realise that I may be out of date – would be tempered. If a bit flew off, I’d be able to say to an AA man – it flew off from there. It would also make the job of customs officers a lot easier. You wouldn’t be able to smuggle in booze or indeed illegal immigrants.
This line of thinking is addictive. What about houses? A step too far, perhaps, and an invitation to thieves (or in my case, thieves having to say ‘a waste of time’, unless they were looking for old progressive rock albums). Shops have display windows. There is still a thriving trade in display cabinets. Why not? Isn’t the government buzz-word ‘transparency’? Let’s have see-through clothes! See-through bodies!
Gone too far, I fear.