Things to do on a lockdown day. A reader says he gets some amusement from the “customer reviews” section of the Screwfix website. For example, what sort of review could anyone possibly write for a length of 15mm copper pipe?
Here's a selection: “Love the pipe, always has two 2 holes in it though, so will leak at first.” “Copper pipe. Long, straight and coppery. “ “A fantastic piece of pipe. It's made of copper all the way through. It has a hole in the middle of it to allow liquid (or gas) to pass through unobstructed. What a great idea!” “Perfect for transporting water from point A to point B.” “ It holds hot water without melting.” How inspiring to see the British sense of humour is as dry as ever, even when fixing leaks.
Which reminds me, eBay is badgering me to write a series of reviews on the following items: 10 metres of 2.5 mm loudspeaker cable, four turntable styluses, a thermal nightshirt and a pair of Crocs. I have written reviews on hundreds of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford without much trouble but a thermal nightshirt? Oh, where to begin, gentle reader . . ?
And here we go again. Every year there is a grand conspiracy, fuelled by supermarkets and breweries, to persuade us that everybody else will be having a better Xmas than us. Their turkey will be bigger and shinier, their table will be groaning louder. Their tree will be 20 feet tall and their magical, glorious, oh-so-tasteful presents will make ours look cheap and tawdry. And the only way you can give your loved ones the Xmas they deserve is to max out those credit cards and spend, spend, spend. You might imagine that a pandemic would calm things down a bit. Fat chance. The adverts are as manic as ever, pressing us to buy party food (for what parties?) and party clothes (again, for what parties?)
What we never hear are the still, small voices of folk, especially mothers, who would be hugely relieved to have something different from the usual madcap, alcohol-fuelled, overspending nonsense with its inevitable hangovers, family rows and terrifying debt. Christmas has been getting out of hand. A saner, smaller and rather more thoughtful locked-down yule might be just what all the doctors ordered.
And when it comes to dissenting voices, did anyone else catch the care-home boss on Radio 4 who ended his interview by pointing out an unspoken truth, that not all old people in homes want to be visited? Which raises another question that no-one seems eager to ask. Even before the lockdown, how many relatives ever bothered to visit Gran?
My Christmas tip? Invest a couple of quid in a small bottle of oil of cloves. You'll probably never need it but if you crack a tooth or lose a filling, with Britain's yuletide dental services in Covid collapse, nothing stops the pain quite so quickly.