>> Sunday, 30 November 2008
... Well, you clicked. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I've been pondering Economics. Not just any Economics, oh no. The most important kind - at least, in my current situation. Home Economics.
I can't speak for everyone of my age, but Home Economics was a subject that did feature in the curriculum at school. Not hugely however, and once you got to 13 it was no longer compulsory, to the extent that it was viewed as one of those subjects you took if you weren't particularly - how can I put this? - bright. Not stupid, exactly, but not very bright. It tended to be the lower streamed pupils at my convent school who took it on past the age of 13. You know, those of us (note the 'us') who were condemned to take 7 rather than 9 or 10 O-levels. (Oh, the shame, the tearful explanations to parents, the embarrassment of telling your friends that you wouldn't be joining them in Higher Maths. Thank god!)
Anyway, enough dwelling on the past. I was talking about Home Economics, and it's secondary citizen status. Despite it's grandiose name - because, let's face it, it didn't seem that relevant to girls of 14 who's dearest ambitions were to be a doctor, physicist (neither of them me), or a meterologist in the Royal Navy (dear god, why? Because I liked the maps, that's why. I didn't do it, obviously. You needed to be able to add up and draw isobars for that sort of thing...) - it didn't actually teach us very much that was useful.
A few things stuck; how to chop an onion (don't laugh, to this day people are impressed when they see me do it), how to do backstitch - barely - and how to wear a too-large school uniform apron by folding up the waist-band. No need for that nowadays, can't remember the last time an apron was too large...
So there we were, school-leavers at 16 or 18 years old, still wet behind the ears, with no real inkling of how to look after ourselves in a 'home-making' sense. Oh, we could conjugate French verbs. Add using bases (well, some of us could), and tell you that Pool was the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. We could even make sarcastic remarks to the boys we fancied from the school down the road. But fend for ourselves? You only had to take a look at my room in university to see that that was still some way off...
To be honest, things didn't really improve much for the next 20 years. I got tidier, obviously. I learnt to cook. Ish. I familiarised myself with a hoover and an iron. But really, it wasn't until I found myself home full time that I began to discover the short-cuts. You know, the things that, once you do them around the home are so glaringly obvious that you can't imagine why you didn't do them before. Perhaps most people do, perhaps they took notice when their mums tried to instruct them, but I'm afraid it all washed over me a haze of Cyndi Lauper, Spandau Ballet and Human League.
Now, it was at this point in my original post that I put a list of a few 'things I wish I had known earlier' in the housekeeping department. But I just reread them and frankly, you would have more fun watching paint dry. Apologies to those of you who have already waded through, and the couple who kindly left comments; I don't know what I was thinking...
Instead then, let's have a few of the following. A list of Things you were told would make your homelife easier and which absolutely don't, and which, in the interest of Home Economics, you should never have shelled out for... Like:
1. A cot-top changing table for your new-born. We had one. We spent money on it. And, of course, we never used it - not once. Why would you when you have a much more stable TABLE next to the cot. (I once nearly got myself thrown out of Peter Jones when I interrupted a salesperson in full spate who was trying to palm one off on an unsuspecting mother-to-be, when I suggested that it was a waste of both money and space if there was a table in their baby-to-be's room. I'm not quite banned from the baby section but it was a close call...)
2. A hand-held dustbuster. Easy to use, I agree. Useful to have around. But have you ever tried to clean one of those babies out? Gah! I'm retching as I type (and yes, I know I should do it more often but somehow there is always something more pressing on my list...).
3. A coffee machine. No! TWO coffee machines! Perfect - except I don't drink coffee. Husband does - of course, he's Dutch - but for the 50% of the time he's not here they sit on the counter top taking up space and mocking me as I try to use the remaining 2 cm square space roll out pastry (not often) or unstack the dishwasher (far too often).
4. A wine cooler. What bottle lasts long enough to benefit?
5. Electronic mouse deterrents. We have 2. And mice.
This list, of course, is just a beginning. If you would like to add your own items to it, you know where the comments box is...