What are they on about?

6th April 2001 at 01:00
David Newnham learns not to throw anything away

It's alarming how some of those childhood misapprehensions can linger longer than they ought to. Take the case of the boxroom.

As a child, I slept in the smallest of our three bedrooms - a room my parents called the boxroom. And that designation made perfect sense to me. The room was square, and certainly not large enough for a double bed. In short, it was box-like. So why look any further to explain the obvious?

Only recently did I discover what everybody else seems to have known all along - that boxrooms were where householders used to keep their boxes - the trunks and tea chests and other paraphernalia of packing.

I say "used to keep" because it all sounds so pre-war. We don't need boxrooms these days, any more than we need lamp rooms or tack rooms. Or at least that's what I thought until my new scanner refused to scan.

If only I had heeded the warning in the user manual. "Note," it said, after the usual bit about checking the contents because, what the hell, the firm's own packers can't be trusted these days, can they? "Save te packing materials to protect the scanner during later transport."

Later transport? Did they mean moving house? Were they suggesting we take the thing on holiday with us ("yes, we're off to Umbria in August for a bit of scanningI")? As I searched in vain, I knew in my heart of hearts what the manual had been trying to tell me.

"Note. There is every chance that this scanner will not work. And, although it is under guarantee, be warned. Should you send it back to us in anything other than its original packaging (including the white polystyrene shapes that your son crumbled into a thousand pieces, and every last bubble of the plastic bladderwrack that you popped between your nervous fingers), we will be able to argue that it was broken in transit."

But what choice did I have? Everything today comes in vast shockproof cartons. And even if these were not immediately commandeered for use as make-believe spaceships or animal experimentation laboratories (and kids like playing in them, too), where on earth are we supposed to store them?

But I guess you know where this is leading

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