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Beeping modernity is robbing life of its mechanical delight

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I spend most of my morning these days trying to make a cup of tea. Sometimes I even get the tea bag into the mug. But before I can finish, something happens - my husband can't find his shoes; my daughter spills her cereal; the dog, busting to go to the toilet, eats a doll house family member out of sheer frustration (turning his vengeance in particular on mini-Dad, who no longer has a right arm, but does have his shoes).

So when I saw on sale a kettle that keeps the water warm for half an hour, with a matching toaster, I indulged. And in doing so, I unwittingly killed off yet another of the simple kinetic pleasures in my life.

The toaster is electronic. Instead of savouring the working of my index finger muscles as I push down the lever in the mornings, I now only have to lightly touch a button and the bread is slowly lowered into the toaster and returned in the same quietly sinister fashion.

I mourn for the mechanics of bread burning. I miss the squeak of the old toaster. The shock of surprise as the spring uncoiled at some unexpected moment and the bread leapt out. The delight of my young daughter at watching this happen.

This is not the first button to steal something from me. My new-age car starts with one too. But I liked turning a key in the ignition. I marvelled at the cause and effect, the idea that just by holding a piece of metal at a certain angle, I was responsible for starting up that great mystery of an engine, feeling it rumble to life under my fingertips.

Without a pop and a clatter to alert me that the toast is ready, the toaster has to beep at me instead. As does the kettle. Repeatedly. So it's no longer just the husband, dog or child demanding my attention in the morning - the household appliances are too.


Once I'm out the door, the car beeps at me so much that I can’t concentrate. I blame my recent rear-ending of the local dog grooming store's dog food display entirely on the multiple beeps that kept emanating from the dashboard as I tried to reverse up the driveway.

I found on Google a way to permanently silence my kettle and toaster. I was willing to risk mild electric shock to make this happen. But when I showed the YouTube video to my husband, he noted that given we paid so much for the appliances, unscrewing their bottoms and cutting random wires was not a course he would advise.

So over a cacophony of intrusive beeps, I am left to sorrow after mechanical delights I didn't even know I loved until they were gone. At least it appears I can do so over a hot cup of tea every morning. The kettle will insist upon it.

Catherine Naylor is the Herald's deputy opinion editor.