It perhaps comes as no surprise, given my regular blathering on the subject, that simplicity is more complicated than its innocent name belies.
On returning to the UK from Africa, I’ve noticed not only how complicated many things are, but also how difficult it is to live simply.
Although many things are ‘easy’ – as I mentioned in my recent post – maintaining simplicity is not one of them.
Yes, that’s somewhat of a contradiction – easy, yet complicated. But bear with me.
Let’s look at keeping myself fed, watered and cleaned, for example.
In Kenya, it was difficult to find much processed food to consume – yet in the UK we need to go to specialist shops to find food that hasn’t been molested.
There was never much worry about being paralysed by having to choose from a plethora of varieties of the same item in Kenya. Here I find myself confusedly wandering along supermarket aisles. Wondering, for example, how it is possible that there are so many variables to think about when wiping my bottom. Obviously I should know that I need pink, chlorine-free, padded, double-quilted, golden-mean designed helical patterns that optimise wipal load bearing, 10:1 removal suck ratio micro-pores and slide saturation avoidance…
I tried to have a cup of coffee the other day and found myself face to face with a Nespresso machine that I might have suspected, had I not fortunately been warned by George Clooney, was a small atomic device. Surely Al Quaeda will take advantage of this similarity and the fact that many airport lounges eagerly stock them for their next attack? You heard it here first.
After first determining that the small metallic mushroom (which looked about as far from a coffee-containing item that it is possible to imagine) contained the coffee I desperately craved, I spent a good five minutes pulling levers and removing water-filling devices and emptying more mushrooms from secreted trays. Nothing worked. It felt as if I had been given an electron microscope and a pair of pliers to remove a splinter.
I finally realised after a few minutes more that, despite looking like it had its own internal power station, the machine needed to be plugged in and on at the mains so, finally, I managed to extract a disappointingly thimble-sized squeeze of coffee at, the marketers would have me believe, ‘the touch of a single button’.
Sadly it was lukewarm because the milk I poured into it was so cold (damn these efficient fridges) that I then had to head to the microwave for a burst of heat. This involved pushing all manner of buttons (in the way you always do with a microwave) that resulted in some elaborate cooking schedule for 3.54 kg of frozen lamb. Fortunately, I terminated the heating process after a few seconds and extracted a scalding cup, hoping the next microwave user was a professional code breaker.
When I discovered I’d made a cup of decaffeinated coffee (as an aside, the red mushrooms should be avoided, as should clouds of the same description) I did some shouting and smashing things inside my head.
Coffee, after all, is needed when one’s brain is not working. That’s precisely the point of the stuff. I have no doubt that Nespresso will be held liable in an American courtroom for some catastrophe caused by a lack of alertness because some desperate soul wasn’t able to get his fix due to overcomplexity.
I tore out an advert from a magazine which is about Siemens’s latest coffee machine which advertises, I kid you not:
A senso flow system, an aroma pressure system, an aroma double shot, a single portion cleaning, an auto whirl plus, a direct whirl, a cream cleaner, a one touch function, an individual cup volume, a cream centre, a cream centre cleaner, an auto valve system, a silent ceram drive and a ceram drive.
Extrodinary. Could I just have a cup of coffee please?
It’s not just food and drink…
If your Internet breaks in Kenya, a representative from your network provider will often stop by within a few hours to give you a hand, then give you their mobile number so you can ring them again in case of difficulty, or perhaps head to their house to meet their children and share some goat.
In the UK, as happened to my exasperated father recently, it took him a few hours on switchboards talking to representatives of dubious intelligence to get an appointment for a few weeks later in order for someone to come and fix the machine. When they finally arrived, he discovered that they knew less about the wireless router in the house than he did so an elaborate dance followed, resulting in calling in a specialist independent consultant, who discovered that the ‘engineer’ had committed the Internet equivalent of making a mud pie at the Chelsea Flower Show.
I certainly wouldn’t be so uncouth as to mention the company by name, but I will inform you that they give young chaste individuals, who have yet to indulge in sexual excesses, a bad name.
Don’t get me wrong. It is easy to get stuff done in the UK and it is, as I also mentioned, so easy to moan.
But there are some things in this land that are so absolutely superfluous that one has to wonder whether all the hard work that has gone into making them is really worth the effort. Cue our toilet paper engineer, or the team further down the production chain who do the experiments. Perhaps they have a huge Nespresso machine to aid their tests – perhaps they can manage to get it to produce coffee in quantities that ensure that they need the very best paper.
I’m moaning I know. In fact, it is wonderful to be back and tip an orange juice, followed by a glass of cold wine, followed by some prawns, a packet of crisps, some nuts, a cake and a coffee down my throat – followed by a few indigestion tablets and then slamming the mess you’ve made into the dishwasher. It’s mind-boggling where all these things have come from.
I’m just saying that I don’t think I’m any happier with all these things. Plus it’s difficult to wiggle one’s way through simply without becoming a-tangled in the fray of other people’s business and inventions all in the name of making it easier to do things that were already easy.
Anyhow, I must go. I’m working on a design for a machine that will help
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