Norm just loves his crate expectations

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

One of the joys, depending on your outlook and pain threshold, is the little catalogue or booklet that drops through your letterbox in the form of ‘junk mail’ that is full of bits and bobs that you never knew existed or would ever need until you read the blurb that goes with the photo or illustration.

For starters you can’t remember requesting it or who could be nasty enough to get it sent to you but never mind as they perhaps thought they were doing you a favour. Although if nothing else you get to learn what the orient is currently working on to satisfy our assumed whims as most of it seems to come from there these days.

Now I have built you up into a high of expectation, I will carry on and explain the following gem that was brought about by one of these delightful catalogues to a customer. Enter Norm into the plot. In the now not too distant past, the phone warbled (the bell went years ago) and could I pop in on him next in passing to have a swift look at his latest acquisition via the Hunkie Dory Happy Gadget Company or whatever.

Intrigued, which is usually the starter for being lumbered in such things, I popped me head round the door and to be greeted with the usual intro of “You will never guess what I’ve gone and brought!” as the spring snaps shut on the trap metaphorically (umm… metaphorically.. that is the third big word I have used this year and the cost of the ink is not going down either…) and the kettle goes on.

No, I remind him, I don’t take sugar in my tea as I am watching my girl-like figure and in the process I have brought a wider mirror so I can now see it all at once – shaving is tricky, but a small price to pay – plus was reduced from £19.99 to a trifling £7.99 as I recall.

Tea is dispensed and after a couple of sloops, I am let into seeing his latest gadget, nay bargain. It’s a sort of kitchen stool with a bit in the middle beneath the seat that folds out and its also a sort of mini set of steps that help to get at things in the cupboards, although a cheaper way would be not to stack stuff too high in said cupboards of course.

At this point I feel it’s best to point out I have gleaned all this from Norm telling me about it plus seeing and reading the description on the packing box with information like ‘Use no hooks’ plus travel information that it came through Felixstowe docks before being delivered as the actual seat stroke steps is not present as far as I can see, however...

A quick peek in the flat box reveals a pile of sticks (wooden in appearance but you never can tell in such cases or then again, boxes, these days) with assorted packs of screws and a sort of metal rod with assorted fittings that could be the hinge arrangement as only time, much reading and head scratching may reveal.

Best to get the kettle on again as it’s going to be quite a while as it’s printed in seven languages with English the fourth choice down, page seven.

Norm is not quite aware that this is one of those ‘flat pack’ furniture items that has turned folk into ‘skilled’ carpenters (read as in woodwork assemblers) in mere minutes as they use a screwdriver to put stuff together into recognisable things as in furniture and is also partly responsible, indirectly, for there being less real, skilled carpenters about nowadays.

He pointed out that in the ‘gud ‘ole daze’ you went into a furniture showroom or whatever and selected what you wanted, then you waited anything from a day or so to umpteen weeks as the tree was still standing in a forest minding its own business at the time of ordering, but was chopped down to be made into a table and four chairs and then delivered.

Sometimes there was a chair missing or a table leg out of the order but you were told to carry on and manage as it would soon be delivered as Arnold, who delivers, was on holiday or attending his horse’s funeral or whatever seemed believable when spoken with a straight face and we believed it of course as being part of the game.

I remember going to a friend’s house and seeing the table and three chairs with a ‘Reserved’ sign on the table where the missing chair should have been. I asked if he felt it a bit inconvenient and he said he was considering putting his wife Wendy up for adoption if the missing chair was not forthcoming as his son was getting too big then for his high chair and something had to give - or go.

Back to Norm and his box via Felixstowe. So we got the sticks or the Main Frame Structure Sides as referred to in the instruction manual out, then sort of placed in order as per the illustration. Then the Screw Parts, 16 of, in Good Easy to Apply Order (I am merely writing this as it was printed in the instructions before you wonder) and the thought crosses the mind what would the outcome of the Battle of Trafalgar have been different if the Royal Navy had used cannonballs made in the orient?

Norm thought as the orient went metric before us, or it’s still ongoing in some cases, so perhaps they might have been square cannon balls and on the good side, being square, they would have been able to get more in a box to send over, no doubt via Felixstowe, without them rattling about inside like the round ones used.

I pointed out, in theory, that the cannon would have had to have used square barrels in order to use square cannons balls – or cannon squares maybe.

Time for the kettle to go on again. Once that cuppa was slurped, back to the matter in hand, and in this case was a screwdriver as all the sticks, bits and assorted support brackets (it says they are on page eleven, just under the staple) were about to be assembled into this most wonderful and delightful piece of furniture that will be admired by many or so it said on page one, just under the version in German.

How one person is supposed to put one of these together is slightly bewildering unless you have access to an octopus who wouldn’t mind giving you a hand or five.

An hour later, Norm, without using any safety equipment or filling in a Risk Assessment form, did slowly lower himself on the seat and then as he wobbled about to test for any loose joints, smiled and gave it the thumbs up or rather thumb up as the other was still sore from sticking the screwdriver in it when it slipped, then plaster applied, which is not mentioned on page twelve but we could rectify that now.

Meanwhile, back in Felixstowe another crate arrives.