This is a cautionary tale of how unbridled consumerism can bring a person to the brink of insanity. It is also a study in trivial irrelevance, first world problem level expert. Expect no depth, no meaningful insights. You might, however, find one tangible benefit from reading this to the end. You are likely to walk away thinking, ‘and here I was thinking I had problems’.
I am not using the word insanity lightly. I wake up every morning with a strong suspicion that I have crossed the line beyond which madness lies and a complete nervous breakdown is no longer as unlikely as I would wish. If this offends you, because one should never ever joke about mental health, I suggest you stop reading now, because worse is to come, and I am past caring what people think.
At the beginning of January our kettle broke. No matter how skilfully we tried to push the on switch down, it remained unresponsive. It just stood there, cold and grey. I liked our kettle. It was at least six years old, always there, always ready to support our family’s hot beverage habit. We are chain tea and coffee drinkers. Putting the kettle on is the first conscious thing we do in the morning and the last kitchen activity before lights go out at night. We put the kettle on whilst the remains of the previous round of caffeine fix are still warm in our mugs.
We had a kettle-not-switching-on scare once before, but on that occasion my husband’s bush tracking survival instincts kicked in, and he managed to jiggle it back to life. He tried the same trick now, but the kettle was gone. Dead. I invite you to watch the dead parrot sketch at this point and you will get the picture of what we were faced with.
An emergency measure was introduced in the shape of a small milk pan with a spout. This was unsatisfactory on several levels. The pan was so small, it would only allow to make two and a half mugs at a time. The pan got covered in a white film of limescale very quickly. Also, crucially, especially in the mornings, when we were on tight schedule, boiling time was much longer than we were used to. This had to be a short-time solution.
The situation required a robust response, so I got to work straight away. I started typing our old kettle’s name into Google, but then, and I think, looking back, I can pinpoint the beginning of my current mental state to that very moment, when my index finger froze over the keyboard, and I thought, ‘how about I look what else is out there’. And so it came to pass that instead of ‘grey Breville Lustra kettle’, I typed in ‘grey kettle’. Predictably, I was soon staring at hundreds of grey kettles. They stared back, mocking me in their steely indifference.
Possibilities were endless and that was to prove my undoing.
To cut the long story shorter, we are now in February and I still scroll through pictures of hundreds of grey kettles every day, whilst the milk pan has gone so completely white with limescale, it looks like there is actual milk at the bottom of it.
Early on in my quest, I had another major setback. My daughter asked me, innocently enough, why grey, our toaster is black, wouldn’t you like them to match? I had never run downstairs faster! I looked at the toaster, looked again, and kept looking. Was it dark grey, as I had always assumed, or was it, in fact, black? I have been looking at it every day since and I simply don’t know. I might never know.
John Lewis has always been my go-to shop. The Oxford Street store is one of my favourite places in London (I know, I know), but on this occasion it has let me down.
I have been working in Reading town centre for the last couple of weeks, and I have been to their John Lewis branch, kitchen department, every lunchtime without fail. For several days now, the store security guards could see me take the escalator down to the basement, stride purposefully across to the kettle display wall, and stop and stare. I would also pick up every one of their kettles several times, weigh them in my hand, play with the lid opening buttons, look inside, look at them from an angle, and then I would leave, abruptly, only to return the next day to repeat the same routine. They probably think I am planning a kettle heist.
In my choice of household items, I am invariably guided by aesthetics first, practicality second, with only perfunctory consideration given to the price. My husband despairs on each of these points.
Trying to solve the current conundrum, I kept all options open. I used every adjective available to kettle seekers out there. Streamline, modern, no-fuss, stylish, elegant, retro, classic, traditional, high-tech, luxury, designer, hard-water, fast-boiling, quiet, I looked at them all.
My husband is a man of above average patience. On days when I am less amiably disposed towards him, I might call it laziness, but in this instance I need him on my side. You see, my husband has waited patiently, with the rest of my family, for me to choose the new kettle, but now he threatens that unless I buy one this weekend, he is going to get a £12.99 plastic white one on Amazon on Monday. I feel a panic attack coming on.