‘I sighed happily, and realised this is what passes for sexting in our relationship’
‘My obsession with household appliances had reached problematic levels’
The first sign, the first obvious sign, was a conversation with the husband. It was one of those late night, intimate conversations when the kids are finally in bed, the phones and laptops have been put away, the wine bottle is half empty, and there’s nothing much on TV.
I was thinking, I began. Mm hmm, he replied expectantly.
I was thinking, I went on slowly, we should get one of those cordless vacuums.
He didn’t look entirely pleased by the direction the conversation had taken.
We could keep it on the landing, I went on, and then I could Hoover the stairs while I got ready for work. We could rediscover the colour of the carpet on the stairs, before it got redecorated with the hair of two black kittens.
The brand of Hoover I had my eye on would set us back about the same as a week in Tenerife, he pointed out. Yes, but think of the ceilings free of cobwebs, I suggested. The clean skirting boards. The stairs that no longer make you sneeze on your way to bed.
Think of a week in Tenerife, he said, and picked up the remote and went off to explore the lower reaches of the Sky menu in search of better entertainment in the form of a documentary about the world’s top 10 bridges.
The next day, we met on the stairs, still plushly carpeted with cat hair. He thrust his phone at me. Look at this, he said. It was an ad for the very vacuum I’d been describing. The cordless one. The Lamborghini of hoovers. It was purple, and it looked like a piece of sculpture. I sighed happily, and realised this is what passes for sexting in our relationship.
The point is, I didn’t look it up, he was saying. These ads have been stalking me since our conversation last night.
I don’t believe it, I said.
I know, he replied. My phone was locked in my pocket. I’ve never in my life Googled a Hoover. The phone must have been recording our conversation, and now it’s sending me ads for Hoovers.
I don’t believe it, I was still saying. It costs way less than a week in Tenerife.
That was the first obvious sign that my obsession with household appliances had reached problematic levels. And also, arguably, that I was officially entering middle age. But it wasn’t the first actual sign. The first actual sign was the Aldi garment steamer.
I had gone into Aldi for a carton of milk and, like everyone else who has ever gone into Aldi for a carton of milk, emerged with a gunmetal plant pot, a pair of children’s sandals, a set of fancy paper, a bumper pack of Sellotape, two fillet steaks, five freshly baked pretzels and a garment steamer. And no milk.
Until that shopping trip, I had never given household appliances much thought. Like everyone else who came of age during the spendy years, I am partial to an oversized fridge. I was briefly taken with a very expensive and huge ironing board when I lived in America, because it had five star reviews on Amazon, and was supposed to make ironing shirts an absolute breeze and, let’s be honest, mostly because it cost far more than an ironing board had any right to. But as I never wear shirts – a state of affairs not unconnected to the fact that I hate ironing – it spent most of its time unloved in the garage. That was the extent of my interest in household appliances, until the garment steamer came along and entirely revolutionised my life, for the very reasonable price of €24.99.
All at once, items of clothing that had been languishing wrinkled and unloved in the back of the wardrobe were once again within my grasp. Coats that had been waiting two years for a dry cleaning were given a new lease of life and a lingering scent of lavender water in under three minutes flat. I steamed everything: towels, blankets, furniture.
I began harassing my children to let me steam their school uniforms and soft toys. I fell out with the husband when he wouldn’t let me steam his shirts, insisting that ironing remained a superior method of wrinkle removal. The fool.
What I made up for in new standards of grooming I may have lost in friends, since I bored anyone who stood still for long enough with my unfettered enthusiasm for the garment steamer. It also kicked off a troublesome process of looking at all household appliances with a freshly appraising eye. The garment steamer was followed by a new power washer (reasonable), a barbecue top pizza oven (impressive), a home dental polishing kit (briefly looked like a solid investment, but quickly took up residency in the back of the bathroom cupboard). But all of these represented modest investments. The vacuum, by any standards, did not. I weighed it up. We didn’t actually need it. We really did need a holiday. I made the sensible decision.
I haven’t actually sent the husband photos of our new hoover when he’s travelling for work. But it’s probably only a matter of time.