If you’d have passed by our house recently you could have been forgiven for thinking some sort of wild disco was in full swing: flashing lights, loud voices, and the occasional shriek. However there hasn’t been any late night parties celebrating the music of Boney M and Chic, but instead a battle of wills between my wife and I, and it’s all about the lights.
At first I thought I might have been losing my mind. I would walk into the kitchen and switch on the light, in order to be able to see where I was going and what I was doing. Then I might have to dart upstairs to turn on the immersion or something like that. I’d return and the lights would be off. That’s peculiar, I’d think to myself.
Or I’d be in the hall trying to locate the hoover or a child’s shoe, and naturally enough I’d turn on the light. Perhaps suddenly I’d have to go to the sitting room to settle a dispute or evict the dog. When I’d return to the hall it would once again be in darkness. ‘Hmm, that’s strange,’ I’d mutter to myself. I began to think I was being followed mischievous elves who were playing tricks on me.
One evening last week I discovered the source of this mysterious behaviour: my wife. I had been in the kitchen, turned on the lights, popped into the utility room for something and returned to find my wife walking out of the now-darkened kitchen. ‘We don’t need all these lights on do we?’ she was saying. ‘It’s been you!’ I exploded. It was clear that she’d been following me around the house switching off lights after I’d turned them on, like a practical joke that was neither practical nor funny.
‘If it’s okay I’d like to be able to see what I’m doing and where I’m going,’ I protested. ‘But you don’t need them on when you’re not in the room,’ she argued. ‘Yes but we no longer live in the pre-famine Ireland,’ I countered, ‘we have electricity now, we shouldn’t hold back from celebrating our technological progress; step into the light for goodness sake.’ This is my central point: our forefathers stumbled around damp, dark cottages in a permanent state of confusion trying to find the hoover or children’s shoes. We don’t have to be like them; we can celebrate illumination and have lights on for our benefit. (Furthermore, those useless CFL bulbs take about four years to gain any sort of strength so you’d need to be switching them on constantly to allow for that frustrating period of dim lighting before you can actually see anything. Whoever invented those things had a sick sense of humour.)
‘It’s a waste of energy though,’ she said, ‘you’re not thinking of the environmental aspect.’ This was like a red flag to a bull, but she underestimated the strength of my armoury. I whipped out my phone. ‘Let’s see what the Electric Ireland app says about that shall we?’ Oh yes, it was time to bring out the big guns. ‘According to my handy appliance calculator, the bulb usage is on the lower end of our bi-monthly consumption list whereas the hair dryer and the hair straightener are up near the top.’ Then she started crying and going on about ‘romance’ and how ‘we used to have fun’. To be honest I wasn’t listening because I noticed our freezer chest energy usage could be a little on the high side and I was making mental notes to defrost it or buy a smaller one. (We’re talking savings of up to three euro on each bill.)
Although it may seem drastic, I’ve decided a head-mounted halogen miner’s lamp is the only way to ensure safe passage around the rooms of my house. Rather than have a Charlie Chaplin-style light-switching caper with my wife around the home every evening, I can simply switch on my 600w lamp any time I want. Yes, it looks ridiculous, and yes it costs a fortune to power, but it means no more stepping on Lego or stumbling over a sleeping dog. I’ll admit that wearing it in bed may be unnecessary but she did say we should have more fun in our relationship. What’s more fun than waking up the children for a midnight game of shadow puppets? As Brick Tamland says in Anchorman: I love lamp.