WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
Yet another brochure/leaflet/catalogue drops through the letterbox, usually now on a weekly basis (or should that be weakly?) extolling the wonders of the latest device that Mankind, or for that matter, Womankind, cannot do without – at least from the seller’s point of view, plus postage and packing, or the other option of ‘Ring n Drag Home’ and pick up later at your convenience, should you be going to a convenience of course.
The devices that abound these days are quite mesmerising and half the fun is working out what they actually do, as most seem to perform a function that normally would take a couple of minutes or less to achieve, without having to plug anything into the wall socket and programme said new wonder device to do the very same job. The new digital corkscrew with built-in timer cannot be far off now.
I think the then wonder gadget of the age came about in the early 1970s – it was the bit that fell in the middle of the 1960s and the 1980s in the last portion of the last century, before you wonder or start looking at your hand held device to find out – and that was the microwave oven. Before it was unleashed on Mrs and Mrs Public it was to be found in pubs or the local fish and chip shop where its ability to ‘cook’ or warm a meat pie up was looked upon with great fascination for doing so in a short period of time, even though the innards of the meat pie left a lot to be desired in some cases.
I went along with Mum and our neighbour Monica to the local Chamber of Trade show where we lived. Assorted local traders plus some of the major ‘household names’ involving product manufacturers of the day showed off their wares in a large hall and it was quite the consumer event of the year or, put another way, the only one in our neck of the woods. These events were to ‘showcase’ various devices, gadgets and services but sadly they seem to have all but faded out these days but progress does not take prisoners, of course.
One encounter on one stand was a chef or cook, depending on your interpretation, and was a sort of Nigella of her day who was demonstrating the wonders of the (then) new fangled microwave oven, and the stand was crowed like Wembley stadium on Cup Final day. They were jam packed in as standing room only was the only option, as Sylvia Chook-Anything showed the gathered masses the joys and abilities of said oven in all its grandness.
Much was cooked, the aroma from assorted edible items ( we were told..) wafted over the area like an invisible fog and after a few descriptions of the cookery carnage were explained along the way, S C-A posed that wonderful question to the hordes: “Dhas anyboddi hove any qhuestions at hall?” – they spoke like in those days as it was a sort of ‘semi-posh’ although now it’s looked upon as an impediment and you have to see a specialist to get it sorted, or take a course of tablets in the hope it will clear up, or Plan X was moved into a more up-market area where others with the same problem spoke in the same vein and the dustbin lids had brass handles on.
Assorted arms shot up and many questions, and it has to be said, some were sensible, were asked as don’t forget this was considered ‘uncharted territory’ then, and S C-A answered to the best of her ability. Everybody seemed happy with the replies, then the Curse of Monica kicked in as our neighbour asked S C-A the average cooking time for a chicken and the reply was one of ‘Wan hass to khow thee wheight hove chores fhurst’ and she then wittered on about assorted ‘tims and wheights’ etc. and on hearing all this, Our Monica then asks the $64,000 question: “Does the chicken have to be dead first?” which was greeted with S C-A’s deeply glossed, shiny, red lipstick-mouthed jaw dropping, plus assorted mumbling from the crowd, but who was going to save the day at this moment? Step forward wonder-woman herself, my mum, who pipes up: ‘Of course it’s dead first – no chicken would sit still while all that electrical humming was going on, and the glass plate going round under it.”
Regaining her composure, S C-A replied with “Qwaite.’”
As a by-the-way, the local Police Crime Prevention stand was quite entertaining, as compared to today’s basic household requirements of CCTV, electric gate and door entry, lasers and infra-red sensors, land mines in the crocus patch, moat and drawbridge, plus barbed or razor wire along the tops of walls and fences, the expert advice given then was ‘fitting an extra bolt on the door will help, modom – perhaps a three-inch one would do the trick?’. Somebody in our road did get ‘burgled’ and the main concern among the neighbourhood was one of just what had they got that was worth having?.
Doris at number thirty-five thought it was their spin-dryer or maybe their radiogram (look it up online, amigos) but once the dust settled nothing had been stolen as it turned out to be their son who ‘broke in’ as he had been out on the town and had come back late in the early hours much the worse for wear and, rather than wake the house up, he vandalised the front door open – as you do. So, if nothing else, some things over the years don’t seem to change much, just the fashions and haircuts.
Bringing it full circle and up to date, I am still undecided about ordering the new water, fire and wind-proof torch with a beam that can been seen at half a mile, in delightful presentation case which, to be honest, seems more well built than the torch that comes in it. Decisions, decisions.