Saturday 10 December 2016

I'm coming clean - I just can't live without Henry

Lucy Cavendish

Published 08/10/2010 | 05:00

I am in love with my vacuum cleaner. He is called Henry. He cost less than €100 and he is the most efficient thing in my household.

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Not only does he clear my house of dirt, dust and dog hairs, he can also get rid of broken glass, wasps and half-eaten mammals the cat brings in.

The point of Henry is that he works. That's all I care about. I am a busy working mother with four children. I need appliances that do the job they are supposed to do.

This is what Henry does. The children have sat on him. The puppy has chewed virtually through his lead and yet on he goes.

Yet in this modern day and age, sales of vacuum cleaners are going down. New research has shown that in the past five years the number sold annually has fallen by 700,000 to just over five million. One reason, apparently, is that we have become less house-proud.

A poll that accompanies the report says in that time, the number of people agreeing that they "really care about the house being clean" has fallen by four percentage points to 77%. Over the same period, the number who liked to have their floors "spotless" dipped by the same amount to 51%.

And the study reveals more than this. We have, apparently, fallen out of love with the highfalutin sorts of vacuums. iBot Roombas -- the robotic vacuums that self-navigate round the room while you go and have a bath/glass of wine/leave the house -- have failed to take off.

I confess that I was sorely tempted by one of these last year. I imagined a whole new freedom as my Roomba did all the work but then I felt a pang of guilt about my Henry. He may not be silver and glam, but he does his job.

Apparently, our new-found slatternly reluctance to invest in new vacuum cleaners has been put down to the fact that we are all becoming more middle class. The survey claims that the more middle class we become, the less concerned about dirt we are.

Well, it is true that the upper classes don't give two hoots about dirt. All the posh people's houses I have been to are unapologetically filthy.

The upper classes ride and shoot and keep many muddy dogs. I imagine they look at the ensuing mess and wonder if there is any point cleaning.

As my friend Jasper says: "We all used to have staff." They can't afford staff now, he claims, "so none of us knows how to clean or cook". When I ask him why he doesn't learn, he says, "but it's so bourgeois to be clean".

The cleanest amongst us, of course, are the working classes for whom a clean home is next to a Godly home.

I asked my mother-in-law about this. She felt the obsession with cleanliness was because when you don't have much, you want the little you have to be as spick and span as possible. "I might not have money," she said, "but never let it be said I was slovenly."

But what about the middle class? When I think of my most middle-class friends' homes, I could probably eat my tea off their floors. But my house is not like that. It is, in fact, a bit of a dump.

Sadly, it's not because I'm posh. It's because I took a decision some years ago that I wasn't going to sweat about it. My mother has always said that a few germs are a good thing. I have followed her example.

The reason why I bought my Henry vacuum cleaner all those years ago was because it looked indestructible, and so it has proven to be.

Yet, can I imagine a life without my Henry? Absolutely not.

Irish Independent

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