Forget the dimmer switch

I’ve done my best.

In a country that makes increasingly bizarre demands on its citizens I have spent the last two decades valiantly trying to keep up.

After dozens of reminders left outside with my every-other-day pintas I have finally registered for online banking with the milkman.

When I was a girl and TV was black and white, there were at least two dairies delivering milk in town. We had silver-top milk and the posh people had gold-top milk, which was mostly cream. How things change, now the posh set have see-through milk with hardly any milk in it at all.

Having spent my formative years regularly lugging 7lbs of dirt-caked loose spuds in a sturdy shopping bag back home from the greengrocers, I entered the age of pre-packed potatoes and plastic carrier bags with enthusiasm. Now, I discover, we were right the first time.


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The revolution hit the currency when the vigesimal and duodecimal systems employed by pounds, shillings and pence, were converted to metric.

I was keeping up.

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Some of it was good. The old spirit-based printer we employed to copy the carbons of our pantomime scripts was, eventually, replaced by that wonderful new thing, a photocopier. Once your fellow workers got bored with copying their body parts, you could get a few minutes alone with Puss in Boots.

Meanwhile the portable typewriter with its inky ribbon, complemented by a job lot of Tippex, was superseded by an electric one with a cartridge of corrector ribbon, then an electronic one with a small self-correct function and, finally, the word processor.

In this brave new world the computer became king and my identity became submerged beneath a welter of codes and pin numbers. My access to everything except my knicker drawer is dictated by an alphanumeric.

My head is full of numbers and letters without which I cannot not access the office, my bank account, my email, my store account; my life.

In attempt to win back some control, I have informed my doctors’ surgery that I do not wish my medical records to go online. Having carefully read all the persuasive arguments for allowing this to happen, I have decided I just don’t want my medical history to become part of a database. I am not a number I am a free woman (more or less and, just to be absolutely clear, “free” is not the same as “loose”).

I am balking a little at the prospect of renewing my passport which expires in June. I quite like my 10-year-old picture - I have seen my husband’s new passport photo which, frankly, looks like a mugshot from San Quentin.

It has to be taken with the eyes open and clearly visible with no sunglasses or tinted spectacles and no hair across the eyes; with the subject facing forward, looking straight at the camera with a neutral expression – mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eyebrows).

Name: Lynne Mortimer

Occupation: Mass murderer

And so I come to my real point. What happened to light bulbs? When did they get so complicated?

All I needed was a new light fitting on the landing. Once upon a time the instructions on the box would have merely said if I needed a screw or a bayonet bulb, and the maximum wattage.

I am a 100-watt woman. I like it bright. I hate groping my way around the house in the half-light of a 40w glow. One of my biggest disappointments was finding that outdoor solar lighting offers pin-prinks of light without offering illumination.

Hotel bedrooms can be dreadfully dim. I have been known to put my head under the shade of the bedside lamp to apply make-up.

Now, it seems, we have to be dim by decree. It’s greener, I’m told. Few of the ceiling lights offered a 100w option and, in the end, we settled for one that takes three 40w bulbs.

B&Q have lots of lighting; shimmering avenues of it. But once you eliminate the ones with dangly bits (dust collectors), the ones that hang too low (head bangers) and the ones my husband declared ineligible (too dining room; too kitchen etc) we were left with few choices.

Finally selecting one, we simply needed to buy the bulbs. But what is ES and SES? Which is best? Why am I having to make decisions about light bulbs?

Has it come to this? Yes, it really has. Every day we have to make pointless decisions.

• Dental floss or tape; minted or unminted?

• Italian ready meal: garlic bread, garlic bread slices, garlic ciabatta, garlic flatbreads? Parmesan you grate yourself, pre-grated or flaked?

• You-know-it’s-not-butter spreads: low fat, very low fat, cholesterol-fighting, salt free, low salt, original yellow?

• Potatoes: good mashers, good roasters, good boilers, good chippers?

• How to pay: credit card, debit card, cash, vouchers, sacrifice first born

• Broccoli: tree, sprouting, purple, tenderstem, florets

In the 60s we holidayed in a caravan at Corton Beach and I can still remember the excitement of being allowed to buy ginger marmalade. It turned the East Anglian coast into an exotic Riviera of discovery.

Fifty years on? Marmalade schmarmalade – they’re even making it with onions.

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