Thursday, 25 July 2019

The perpetual dichotomy between promises and whoopsies

Robot cleaner before its death

Edwin's friend in Cambridge has a £500 robot vacuum cleaner, and for some time Edwin has been pressurising us to buy one, not appreciating that – in contrast to us – has friend has a small bachelor pad with no stairs. Our arguments were backed up today by the Chemist's assistant in Claire, who bought one and set it to clean her rooms at midnight each day. Until one evening, their dog did a whoopsie which the cleaner duly processed and cleaned up, clogging its innards beyond repair. She had to throw out the whole thing.

Never ask a Cambridge student for directions. They are trained to never acknowledge ignorance of any question, and will always willingly provide an answer, even if the truth lies 180 degrees away from the direction they suggest. I first came upon this phenomenon when I was a teenager, listening to Radio Three (or The Third Programme as it was then called). A Cambridge graduate was being interviewed for his favourite piece of music. "When I first went up to Cambridge," he confessed, "I was asked in someone's rooms which was my favourite Brandenburg. I knew little about music, and took a blind guess, 'Number 3'", which they then played. By coincidence, I had recently jointed World Record Club to learn a little about classical music myself, and they had sent the Third Brandenburg as a complementary E.P. to thank me for joining. I have enjoyed it ever since, but now all six Brandenburgs can be fitted on one CD.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when Boris took to the podium to outline our future. As a breed, politicians generally attended Oxford, but I suspect that this institution ‒ steeped in history and classics degrees as it is – is even more rigorous in never admitting ignorance than Cambridge, which should have a more scientific attitude to ignorance and inquiry. We are promised the earth; nothing is impossible; we are moving to the golden uplands of prosperity and delight, with good housing for all. "Oh good," I think, "bring it on!" No politician ever admits to doubt or uncertainty, nor do we the public expect them to. We look for reassurance and hope, for bright skies ahead. We live in expectation of a miracle worker, but are always doomed to disappointment. Still, I must admit it is good to see the glowing rays of optimism shine for a few hours at least, before they are greyed over by the gloomy clouds of reality that beset Theresa May. Perhaps, just for once, we really will have a saviour who can solve the dichotomy between promises and achievements. That would be a saviour worthy of the name. Or perhaps - like the robo-cleaner - Boris will plough his merry path, promising to clean up everything before him, until he too hits the shit.

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