When my daughter asked what I would like for Christmas, I had an immediate answer. A Teasmade, so that when I wake in the morning I don't have to trundle downstairs to make tea. It seemed the ideal choice as my wife and I acquaint ourselves with the luxuries of retirement.
Many years ago, my father bought one when he retired. I suspect the one he acquired was designed by Stephenson prior to inventing the Rocket, because the two machines were remarkably similar: all noise, smoke and inefficiency. Our house at the time had 5 amp wiring and my father noted with some concern that the wall socket got very hot when the Teasmade was in use. Attempting to pull out the plug, his arm knocked the Teasmade, steam shot up his pyjama leg and he uttered a profanity that caused my mother, a devout Christian, not to speak to him for three days. I remember him wandering into the garden with the Teasmade under his arm and a very large hammer ...
But inventions move on and a shiny piece of modern tea-making apparatus duly arrived on Christmas morning. Setting up seemed simple, so that evening I duly gathered cups, tea bags and milk, plugged the machine in by the bedside and went downstairs to watch a film. At midnight, my wife and our cat came haring downstairs, woken by a piercing electronic beeping from the Teasmade. I had forgotten to programme its alarm and it had gone off at its loudest setting.
In the morning, I reached out of bed and pushed the button. We lay back and waited for the machine to do its stuff. We waited and we waited. I checked and, yes, I had filled it with water and screwed the tank stopper in properly. My wife sensibly suggested we should check the instructions and I knew I had put them in a safe place. The trick was remembering where. After looking everywhere, during which time we could have made 20 cups of tea, we found them. It seemed you had to push the start button for three seconds until it lit up.
We leaped back into bed and waited for the water to boil, which it did, but unfortunately I had misaligned one of the cups. My wife, therefore, had no beverage at all, because the water that should have gone into her cup had disappeared through the machine's spillage grille and needed to be emptied out. Magnanimously, I gave the missus my tea and got up to sort the machine out. In doing so, the plug caught the wire of the bedside lamp, which fell to the floor and broke its bulb. Not the ordinary sort of bulb, of course, but one of those funny little Ikea ones. And I knew I wouldn't have a spare.
Making an early morning cup of tea now seemed akin to undertaking a precision scientific experiment, but I wasn't giving up. That evening, like a soldier going into battle, I checked and re-checked everything. Yes, the water tank was full, the cups aligned, the tea bags positioned, the milk fresh. And in the morning the machine switched itself on, the alarm woke us gently, the water heated and bubbled into the cups. Wonderful. I got out of bed to deliver a hot beverage to my other half and then realised I'd forgotten a teaspoon. Would my wife mind, I asked, if I oiked the teabags out of the cups with a pair of rusty scissors? Then I realised I hadn't brought up a container to drop the bags into ...
A month on, I think I've got the hang of it. But I'm keeping a big hammer by the Teasmade, just in case.
Mike Kent is a retired primary school headteacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.