This week's entry for the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop.
Our home is full of stuff that is essentially useless... except we're using it. So there's retired religious book holders we use to pile up big books, old photo albums, and, well, bits of paper; Copper incense burners where we keep last autumn's conkers, big ceramic vases containing charming yet potentially eye poking bouquets of assorted sticks that we pick up on walks...
Yes, you're getting the picture, we buy useless stuff to hold other useless stuff. As long as it's wood, or metal, or something old, we're big fans. We just don't seem to see it as clutter. It's family.
When it comes to plastic, though, it's a completely different story. My dad once brought us a garlic peeling tube. A rubbery kind of thing in which you put the unpeeled garlic clove, roll it around a couple of times, and then the skin is detached from the clove and all you have to do is slice off the extremities.
We were unimpressed. What does this thing do that you can't do with the flat of a knife blade? What is the point? And look what a mess there is in the kitchen drawer already - do we have to keep it?
My husband insisted we keep it as a party trick: he'd get it out when we had guests and show them what pointless inventions people would come up with. Then one day a guest, a rather notorious history professor, fell in love with it and took it home. There's no predicting what people will like.
With electronic gadgets, I have a more divided attitude. Some leave me cold: electronic games, watches and alarm clocks, mini radios. Some I have flirted with and rejected: the pocket lamp that supposedly recharged itself with a wind up mechanism, and could charge your phone - yeah, right. The pen that doubled up as a USB drive (you could keep about 5 photos on that thing...).
Then there's the things I have a love hate relationship: my phone, my iPod, my mini laptop. Sometimes I think: why can't I just combine the three? Wouldn't it be so much easier if I could have one wireless piece of equipment that I could use everywhere for every purpose? Something that doubled (quadrupled?) as a wide screen tv, a phone, an iPod as small as my tiny shuffle that I can hook on my t-shirt at the gym, and a handy, touch screen/ keyboard combination word processor? Oh yes, and it should do MiFi as well. Be pink, lightweight, unbreakable, and greasy kids' fingers' proof.
And if such a thing existed... how I would love to get rid of the tv, dvd player, satelite box, wireless device, and all those things that are black and ugly, take up space and mean that our house is riddled with dangerously placed wires!
When the iPad was first whispered about, I felt that would be it. That (provided we suddenly became a lot richer than we are) we could just buy a few of them and they'd serve all our electronic needs! Except the iPad is a gadget, rather than a useful piece of equipment. You can watch films on it (provided you get them from iTunes, that is), you can listen to music (ditto) - but not at the gym, you can read the papers and may be books. But you can't write, and you can't phone. And it's big. But not so big that it's as good as big tv. So, frankly, if I was to nominate something as the most useless gadget of the times, I think I'd go for the ... garlic peeler. I can't quite get myself to trash the iPad, as there is still the faint hope that I will get one!
Oh, one last thing. The rice cooker. What is the point of that? You take a pan, dump some rice in it, clean it three times, cover it with a bit of water (about 'that' much) bang it on the stove not too high, then forget about it until it smells cooked. Nine (ok, eight) times out of ten, it works, and you get fluffy, yet dryish rice. So why bother with an extra piece of equipment in your already crowded kitchen?
(As I write this, I can see our rice machine, which I got off a friend a few years back. I never did get to try it because I decided to wash it first thing and drowned the engine... It's shoved underneath a chair in my front room. For some reason it tells the time, so when we can't find a phone and we just peek under the chair).
Oops, I think my rice is burning. Gotta go!