Part 2

Life was getting out of hand

Susan Harr unplugs her gadgets and rediscovers the joys of manual labour

A. It is a real strain on the eyes and concentrates the mind on what is really worth watching. We now spend a lot more time walking the dog (who never liked television anyway), reading, talking or pursuing other

B. First to go was the dishwasher. I had always felt that by the time we had collected enough dishes for a worthwhile load, put in the soap and the rinse aid,  emptied the filter of  the disgusting gunge it collected    and    filled    it with special salt, I could have done the lot by hand.

C. This makes me wonder just what ‘time’ technology gives us. The time to take up more activities for which we must buy more gadgets? If so, hats off to the marketing experts: but I think they are  conning us.

D. Quite wrongly, I had tended to think with horror of  the  women who sewed elaborate garments, robes, linen and household items by hand. I thought of those long hours, the strain on the eyes and so on.

E. These implications are obvious. The movement of my fingers uses nothing from the previous power supply being eaten up by our greedy race. A craft executed by hand does not pollute the environment.

F. I am not tied to a noisy, whirring machine, with my head bent and my back turned on  the world, and I can take my time over the garment.  In any case, I was always slightly  alarmed  by those electric machines that dash across the fabric towards your fingers. Best of all, I can pop the whole lot into a carrier bag and take it with me wherever I go.

G. Meanwhile I have regained control of my sink, where I plunge my hands into the suds and daydream while doing the washing up — an agreeable, if temporarily forgotten, activity.

H. We have come to believe that we could not do without it, and if we do resist the notion that our lives would be unmanageable without the appliances of science, we certainly do not want to relinquish them. Pity the generations whose lives were blighted by tedious and blister inducing toil. Even our brains are relieved of exertion by computers that not only perform miraculous calculations with amazing  speed, but now provide entertainment.

For questions 16-22, you must choose which of the paragraphs A-H  on fit into the numbered gaps in the following newspaper article. There is one extra paragraph which does not fit in any of the gaps.

Everyone is in love with technology. It gives us all those marvellous gadgets that make  life easier and leave us so much more time to do other things. A gradual, though not particularly subtle,  form  of  brainwashing has persuaded us that technology rules, and that it is OK.

However, a recent unhappy experience with my malfunctioning word processor — a £48 call-out fee, a labour charge of £1 5 per quarter of an hour, plus parts and replacements costs — has confirmed a suspicion that gadgets are often not worth the expense or the trouble. Are we as dependent on technology as we imagine? Bit by bit, I have been letting the household technology fall by the wayside as its natural and often short life expires.


So when the thing started making curious noises, which continued even when it was disconnected by a puzzled service agent, I abandoned it to the backyard, where it whispers damply to itself like some robot ghost.


Of course, there are some gadgets I would not like to be without. A year living without a washing machine convinced me of the value of the  electric washtu b. But there are others whose loss has brought unexpected delight. Feeling that we were becoming too apt to collapse in front  of  the television, or slot in a video, I sent back the rented colour equipment and we returned to the small black-and-white portable.


One of these, in my own case, is sewing; and here is another gadget that went by the board. My old Singer sewing machine is now an ornamental plant table, and as I cannot afford to replace it, I have taken to sewing by hand.


In fact, the time I now spend placidly stitching is anything but tedious, and the advantages are numerous. For a start, I can sew and listen to the radio — another rediscovered pleasure — or I can talk with family and friends. If it is a simple task, I can watch the programmes I do want to see on television, and alleviate my puritanical guilt at sitting in front of the box by doing something useful at the same time. And what a lovely, cosy feeling it is to sit by the fire and sew with a pot of tea for company.


There is a wonderfully soothing quality about executing a  craft by hand, a great satisfaction in watching one‘s work become neater, more assured. I find things get done surprisingly quickly, and the pace of life suddenIy slows down to the rhythm of my own hands. I am also freed from one of the most detestable aspects of late 20th century life — the need to rush to finish an activity so that I can rush to the next.


The result of all this brooding is that I now prowl the  house  with a speculative eye. Do we really need the freezer, the microwave oven, that powered lawn- mower? Come to think of it, we could save an awful lot  of  money by doing without electric lights!