Jane, I think the fridge is coming for me . . . aargh!

IF memory serves, there used to be a TV programme called The Secret Life of Machines. I can’t remember if it suggested that domestic gadgets had the power to communicate and organise conspiracies of X-Files intrigue, but if it didn’t it should have.

I’m taking it as read that we will experience multiple appliance failure in January, 2012. (To coincide uncharitably with the arrival of the Christmas credit card bill, naturally. Told you it was a conspiracy.)

The first few days of 2010 saw the web browser go on the blink – it had to be replaced by another version, which swallowed hours of my life I will never get back – and, within days, Car Number Two came out in sympathy with a mysterious engine ailment that baffled three mechanics and a bank of computerised diagnostic equipment. Result: a black hole in the bank balance and one vehicle humanely destroyed.

This year dawns grey and cold, and with more of the same. First to fall over is the wi-fi router. (I’m pretending I know what I’m talking about here.) We tried to link Emma’s new laptop to it – the computer is meant to induce her to tackle trivialities like homework, but instead appears permanently locked to Facebook and Twitter – but the password written on the bottom of the router wasn‘t recognised. Outcome: more hours sacrificed, and modern oaths invented as I reset the darned thing to its virginal from-the-factory settings – losing our broadband connection totally for a fraught 20 minutes before somehow managing to make it all work.

I can’t tell you how; my technique is simply to push on doors and see which ones open. It’s a bit like giving enough monkeys enough typewriters; sooner or later, one unwittingly produces Romeo and Juliet.


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One of the first wilful acts of the Router Reborn must have been to send instructions to New Car Number Two to develop a fault as Jane drives in the middle of nowhere. A dashboard light flashed a symbol like a skateboard. The manual said it meant “engine malfunction”. Well thank you, Mastermind; we might have guessed that from the way the thing lost power. It’s in the workshop, being encouraged to give up its secrets.

Of course, these things come in threes. Today, we wake to find the freezer silent and giving us the cold shoulder. There are lights on, but no-one home. A Relative Who Knows pronounces it ready for the scrapheap.

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We’re researching replacements. Anyone know if 158 litres is bigger than five cubic feet? I would pick up a calculator, but it’s sure to bite.

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