Wandering half-awake through our entrance hall this morning, before it was fully light, I noticed that one of our hip-hop lights bought when they were cutting-edge trendy ten years ago wasn’t working. So ‘designed’ is the misted plastic shade on this light, you have to crush half your face against the wall just to see if there’s a bulb in it. The ‘designer’ of it did not, however, run to an easy way of removing the shade and replacing the bulb: there are four minute screws attaching the shade to the bulb assembly. So there are just the 2 [two] ways of replacing a bulb: find a micro-screwdriver at the bottom of the screwdriver tin, and then lose at least one of the screws undoing them; or get on a chair and force both hands behind the shade while looking down a broken nose from above to see how you’re doing.
Foolishly, I chose the latter route. As a result, three slimline long-life bulbs had a very short life, dropping from the fumbled screw-in bulb socket to the unforgiving hand-mined Cornish floor slabs below. Only then did I revert to Plan A, and discover that the bulb that had been in the socket originally was just fine: it was the socket innards that had Ceased To Be Active.
There is, without question, a difference between good and bad design. Bad design looks like a Mafia Capo’s mother-in-law was the guiding light when it came to asthetics; good design combines clean, stylish looks with robust functionality. Like so much contemporary stuff, my hall lights fall between two stools.
Britain’s road signage suffers from the same halfway-house syndrome. It is clean and classic, but confusing and badly located. Just outside Arundel, there is a roundabout with a sign beforehand saying ‘through traffic’ in the best tradition of sensible French road signs. You take the recommended exit, and then come to a T-junction…at which there are no signs at all. Could be right to Arundel town centre and left to Ankara, but they’re not saying. I took the left mystery tour, and came to another roundabout with one of those annoying ‘macro’ signs: you know – Left, Africa, Right, Birmingham, Straight On, Penzance. Only when I got halfway round the bloody thing did it say ‘(A27)’ which was all the motorist heading for the M27 needed to know. Our road signs are an allegory for Britain’s economy: not sure where it’s going, and we all find out when it’s too late to argue about it.
But the most spectacular failure of British road signage is that nowhere does it say, ‘Warning: you are approaching Bexhill-on-Sea. Take evasive action’.
It has a lovely, lilting sound to it does Bexhill-on-Sea. Somehow – and I’ve no idea why – the name conjures up Edward Heath, discreet Tory affluence, yachts, and twee Christmas Carol services. My son-in-law told me, when I reported back to him about just how much B-o-H doesn’t live up to expectations, that his brother lives there. He added that he sort of felt this might be a sign of his brother’s mental state, but did say “You get a lot of house for your money in Bexhill-on-Sea”.
I’m sure he’s right: myself, I’d want someone to pay me tithes in order to ensure that Bexhill-on-Sea might be the place for me. For a start, it doesn’t augur well when you enter any town and find a derelict Sainsburys. Oh my Gaaard, they opened a Sainsburys here, and it failed. But the Lidl is doing a roaring trade.
What follows after you skirt around the empty Sainsburys is a cavalcade of Bad Britannia. Kebabs, KFC, Fish n Chips, Insurance brokers, moneylenders, tanning salons, Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano, a shop called Cheap Booze (I’m not kidding), and a hairdressing salon called Waves. B-o-H is the seamy underbelly of a Britain left behind by Teflon Tony’s style revolution: it is the town that Cafe Society couldn’t change. In a nutshell, it is the Last Redoubt of 197o’s Old Labour.
Somebody should send A A Gill to Bexhill-on-Sea: doing so would have to be a win-win. Either Gill would write a review so bad that the place would auto-sink into the sea, or Gill would be left a dribbling catatonic afterwards. Perhaps both.
But there is always an upside. Hunting around pointlessly for lightbulbs this morning, I discovered in our storage annexe a veritable treasure trove of the pre-bonkers pc global warming versions. Yes, that’s right – the ones enabling you to read by their light, and not have to wait a year for them to get going. Christmas, when it comes, will thus be all lit up. I can hardly wait.