Notes from West London

Things that don’t work very well

We could do with a new Hoover (sorry, vacuum cleaner). The one that we have doesn’t work very well. It doesn’t pick up much fluff, dirt or dust when used in the conventional way, at an angle to the floor, pushed back and forth across the carpet, like the one in this old Shake & Vac advert. The extension parts for cleaning corners and edges (hose, plastic tube, plastic nozzle) work okay, just about. They’re patched up with duct tape. We vacuum whole carpets using these extension parts. We can’t “Vac” in the same way as the woman in that Shake & Vac advert.

We have a tendency to stick with what we have even if it doesn’t work as well as it should, or as well as it used to. If the vacuum cleaner stopped working altogether we would replace it but while it’s just about working we will keep on using it, and take longer to Hoover the carpets.

We do, at least, have two dustpan and brush sets that work fine. One of them is the usual type, the type I grew up with, where you have to bend down to brush the dust into the pan. The other has a brush with a handle about three feet (or one metre) long and the dustpan is at the end of a handle the same length. You can gather dust into it without having to bend down. It still feels rather hi tech to me, the kind of thing you’d see in a shop or restaurant rather than a family home.

A few years ago my brother bought a new dustpan and brush, to replace the ancient one that his wife’s family had used for years. The old dustpan was held together with Sellotape, and it was warped so that its front edge curved away from the floor. A significant proportion of whatever you were trying to brush into it would end up underneath it rather than in the pan itself. The replacement cost something like 5 Euros (he lives in Spain) and the rest of his family questioned his purchase. What did he waste his money on a new one for? They already had a dustpan and brush. This was the kind of thinking we grew up with. However inadequate a set of tools might be you continued to use those tools indefinitely, or until they stopped working altogether. If that meant trying to sweep the same pile of dust into a dustpan three or four times, rather than once, then that’s what you did. If it took you twice as long to clean your carpets with your old Hoover as it would with a new one, well, that’s just how things were. You wouldn’t waste your money on a new one would you?




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