Having recently retired from the Armed Forces and having time on my hands (according to my wife, golf and playing on the computer don't count), I have now been "volunteered" to help with the house chores. We are officially classified as "DINKS" (Dual Income, No KidS) as both our sons are now out on their own, my wife teaches and I have my pension. While appearing at first blush to be a very satisfactory arrangement, it does mean that I have no kids on whom to foist the "mediocre" chores. Nevertheless, I did not consider this a problem as I had performed most of the chores at one time or another (maximum) with, if memory serves, minimum stress. However I guess memory can be selective as I don't remember the difficulties one can encounter when employing supposed "labour saving" appliances, obviously developed by sadistic engineers who are totally unclear of the concept of house cleaning and are more comfortable designing nuclear power plants and space shuttles.

For example, our new vacuum cleaner is best suited for cleaning the red carpet laid out for visiting royalty - and that's it! Anything other than a straight and uninhibited path and its about as useful as non-opposing thumbs! As I soon found out, vacuuming a house from top to bottom employing this totally hostile "appliance from hell" made peacekeeping look inviting! To start with, all the written stickers on the machine are warnings, not instructions. I determined from this plethora of printed safety policy that I could not take the beast swimming with me if it was plugged in, nor use it as a sump pump, but nowhere did it advise me how to open the damn accessory container so I could get at the crevice tool!

Another nifty feature is the electrical cord which is almost but not quite long enough when pulled out of its hiding place and which continually tries to mate, snake like, with the hose. When it decides it has done enough, it retreats to its nest with a speed and ferocity seldom seen by this observer, snapping and grabbing things along its frenzied flight path. The vacuum hose itself is a work of wonder. Its design is such that one immediately senses that it can only be operated comfortably by the hunchback of Notre Dame. When accompanied by its various attachments, it cleverly ties itself in knots while the tools delight in catching in the corners of every object one wishes to get behind or under. The powered carpet cleaner works on a rather unique method in that while it definitely cleans the carpet, this is only temporary until such time as the dust that its thrashing has thrust vertically into the immediate vicinity settles.

But the piece de resistance has to be the basic mobility of the machine. As any experienced home maker knows intuitively, if you have to drag something after you all over the house (children exempted), the best shape is round so that it will slide easily around corners, chairs, etc. Our machine is rectangular which ensures it will snag without prior warning, on just about anything at which time a tug of war occurs guaranteed to frustrate the most benign individual.

Finally, did I mention that this device is wheeled? Yes it has three wheels, each with its own idea as to direction, usually compromising on a path bearing little resemblance to the one the operator wishes it to follow. Their minimal diameter is just perfect for not clearing the simplest obstructions including the power cord, again leading to another tug of war and the inevitable premature cessation of work. Then, while trying to extricate the beast, the hose and power cord renew their love making! I will not cover the "changing of the bag" as it is not a pretty scene, especially for inclusion in a family publication.

I guess the ideal would be to have an experienced, unemployed mechanical engineer who is well versed in both house cleaning and the shortcomings of existing appliances, design a new line of "user friendly" devices. Hmm, those qualifications sound vaguely familiar!

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