The washing machine is making a funny noise. It’s an LG model which has been pretty decent until now, though I’m sure it’s long past the 10 year warranty on its motor. Just in the last month or so, there’s a kind of grinding sound coming from it, which I’m sure is a precursor to general failure.

Of course, while I had half an eye on the washing machine, it was the microwave that just gave up. Last night: fine. This morning: nothing. Changed fuse: nothing. I especially resent the microwave because the whole product category is shit. I’m half-certain that almost nobody does anything with a microwave other than chuck something in and push the button to warm it up. What I want is: a button; a timer. What I get is: 100,000 buttons, sub-menus, special settings and other ‘features’, none of which I’d ever use; and if I did want to use them, I’d forget how and need to consult the manual every time.

My main oven is limping along, also not working properly. It’s a fan oven, and the heating element in the fan doesn’t work. There are still the top (and bottom?) elements, so the oven works in some modes, but not all, and your guess is as good as mine as to how reliable cooking temperatures and times are. Talking of time, I’ve forgotten how to adjust the clock, and I’ve never known how to use its timing functions, beyond the (up to 60) minute timer. I want a new oven, but (again), I don’t want one with all these modes and buttons. It’s just feature bloat, as with the televisions that come with apps and which listen to everything you’re saying in your living room, and report to Samsung, or whoever, what it is you’re watching.

Feature bloat afflicts almost every technology until it starts to impinge on usability, at which point it’s time for a revolution. Apple’s obsession with removing buttons on phones has created a whole swathe of people who don’t know how to switch them off, or perform a reset. A hardware reset button is a beautiful thing. My current laptop doesn’t have one, and I miss the reassurance of being able to mash down on a button for 10 seconds or whatever to force the computer to reseat itself in the universe. One of the joys of the Kindle Oasis is that you can turn the pages with actual buttons, and it’s so much nicer (and cleaner) than using a touch screen.

We use the microwave for a limited set of things. Warming milk for sauce making; re-heating tea; cooking frozen peas; heating up the occasional ready meal; defrosting bread in a pinch. With this latter, I do not use the “defrost” button, which is useless. I just give the bread a series of quick zaps. Why would I spend time pushing buttons and listening to beeps in order to defrost a third of a baguette? None of this is rocket science, and yet the amount of technology thrown at this simple food-heating exercise is ridiculous. It’s as if they still expect us to be impressed by the “invisible” warming of food, which is a zombie concept like the “laser display board” mentioned in the radio comedy I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

I resent having to get another one, but the minor inconvenience of not being able to warm up leftovers quickly, or having to cook peas in a saucepan – like an animal – just tips the balance.

Before all this (*waves hands*), we had a week in the Alps in that last “normal” summer, and there was a washing machine in the flat that was impressively quiet. To the point that you could be a metre or so away from it and say things like, “Weren’t we going to do a load of washing?” and hear the reply, “It’s running.” So I’m kind of looking forward to getting a new, silent, washing machine, but I’ve baulked at replacing the fan oven, partly because I still hope not to be living here after I retire.

Retirement has been uppermost in my mind after this particular week at work, but I need to do a few years yet. A colleague suggested you could go a bit longer (and boost the pension) if you went part-time, which is a possibility, except that my ideal part-time doesn’t exist. It should though: it’s a genius idea I have.

My wife has been part-time for years, 4 days a week. Fine. But what if, instead of 4 days a week, you could take the equivalent weeks as extra holiday? A school year is 38 weeks, so that means a 0.8 part-timer is effectively working just over 30 weeks. In other words, in my ideal scenario, I’d work from September to the beginning of June, which is effectively when the final year students are done. Give me mostly exam groups to teach, and then redeploy my other classes to a reciprocal part-timer, one who will work fewer hours through the year and then pick up some extra in the last two months to make up their hours to whatever decimal they’re aiming for.

I’d even, happily, set and work mark online (for exam groups in the first year of their course) for this hypothetical other teacher, as long as I could do it from France.

Dream job! A utopian idea that leaves me feeling sad, thrown back into this reality, and wondering if I can stand another five years of it.

%d bloggers like this: