We believe that many of you dear readers may recall our quirky illumination device that we repurposed and installed at our old home, Meadowcroft – a 300 year old former farmhouse.
It was a great place to live and we stayed for 12 years, but it had its faults and one was that it was very often dark inside – even on a summer’s day. The dining room was particularly gloomy. We can laugh about it now, but at the time; we injured ourselves on serrated knives, razor wire, drawing pins, chainsaw blades, stinging nettles and wood splinters almost on a daily basis. One dark evening, I tripped and fell heavily against the back of a solid farmhouse chair, not only breaking some ribs in the process, but I also dropped a full plate of hot food and catapulted a glass of red wine at the ceiling. My ribs, though painful took a few weeks to heal, but the red wine stain remained for years until we finally redecorated. We needed light and quickly and once the problem was solved, we saved a fortune on bandage and plasters, so much so, that we bought a small Caribbean island. Actually I made that bit up about the drawing pins...they were safety pins.
With the light came an unexpected career change; our hands healed and blossomed, friends and neighbours noticed our perfect skin. Now injury-free they were porcelain-smooth and they glowed with youth and vitality. There was more than a whiff of jealousy hanging around our sleepy hamlet. A farmer friend, one day remarked that we could make money by joining a hand modelling agency; he had done it part-time in the sixties and worked regularly for a tractor company. There are plenty of videos out there of his hands grasping the steering wheel of a (insert favourite tractor brand), as it chugs across a Cornish field. His sausage fingers and calloused skin were as he put it “right for the job”. We made haste and successfully joined the UK’s top hand modelling agency. Soon we found ourselves in demand advertising artisan-crafted Madagascan hemp gloves and Icelandic finger stalls, which bizarrely became a “must have” fashion item and thrilled all on the catwalks of Paris and Bilston...who would have thought it? We were out of the outhouse and into the penthouse and all because of a light bulb moment.
As you know by now, we are well; mildly eccentric...some even say complete crackpots...a common or garden light from an electrical store was not for us, no - we preferred to repurpose something unusual, but what could we use? The theatre sized Wurlitzer in the utility room was in disrepair and used as a clothes airer, the double bass had somehow made it’s way into the attic. If only we had something smaller, some sort of hollow-bodied reed instrument. We struggled to think of it’s name...Éclair? Clairvoyant? We needed clarity...then we had the light bulb moment. Clarinet – that’s what it was! If only we had a 100 year old unplayable, still-boxed example to hand, say one that had been thrown away on a public dump some 20 years ago, if only...Then Kay remembered that we did indeed have a 100 year old unplayable, still-boxed example that had actually been thrown away on a public dump some 20 years previously, but where was it?
Nan (Kay’s Grandmother) put her head around the dining room door. It was a great and effective party trick that never failed to delight, but it had once traumatised a frail child, so she saved it for family and friends. She lived with us for a couple of years until she unexpectedly one day announced that she was going to ride a horse from Alaska to Argentina. She wrote to us years later to say that she had settled in Bolivia and invented a new type of whisk, but had so far, only got to the prototype stage. Since then, we have heard nothing from her. Perhaps the head trick proved too much for the South American stomach.
Anyway, back to Meadowcroft...Nan said that she was sick of constantly tripping up on that “bloody éclair thing at the top of the stairs – can you move it somewhere else?” That’s strange...we had no recollection of having a long cake of choux pastry, filled with cream and topped off with chocolate icing and left as a trip hazard. What would be the point in placing a cream-based snack outside the room of an elderly relative - If only to hear her shriek, as she slipped and flailed on the landing? We loved her; we kept her safe, why would we use a dessert to create peril? We wrestled with the concept for a while and all the time Nan’s head was still around the door, watching...waiting. I decided to investigate. I looked, but found no evidence of crumbs, no tell-tale smear of cream or the sweet aroma of light pastry. All my attention was focussed on the mystery bun, so much that I failed to see the 100 year old unplayable wind instrument that had been thrown away on a public dump 20 years previously. I tripped over it and fell headlong into Nan, having just come upstairs with a box of éclairs...whoever said life is boring and predictable?
Still plastered in cake related debris, I located the clarinet and took it down to Kay. She immediately saw the possibility “You know” she said “If you blow into the mouthpiece, the reed should vibrate producing an attractive woody tone and by successful manipulation of the keys, one may be able to create a satisfying melody.” “An instrument such as this, in the right hands (someone with two right hands, say) could have had a successful career, whilst wearing a bowler hat and an ever-changing wardrobe of brightly coloured waistcoats, but sadly – no one had taken up the mantle.” We sat quietly for some time. Then we sat quietly a little more. “Do you think that that person should have had a ridiculous name?” I asked. “Would it have been an impediment or an aid to their success?” Like the guy who sang the 60s hit “Release Me”, but we were at a loss to remember the artiste’s name...
Then Kay said “What if we pass an electrical cable through the hollow body of the instrument and attach a low energy light bulb to one end and a 13 amp plug to the other?” Again, we sat quietly for some time. Yes, it would give the illumination we craved, but would we need to wear bowler hats and brightly coloured waistcoats? Nevertheless, we set to work. Kay went to the utility room and there on the Wurlitzer were two bowler hats and brightly coloured waistcoats draped over it. We put them on and sang “Release Me”. Sitting side by side in our novelty trad-jazz outfits, we watched neighbours and friends venturing down to the beach and realised how nice that there would not be a stranger on the shore that day. Then we set to work. We cut the electrical cable to the desired length and inserted it easily through the hollow body. Kay attached the low-energy bulb to it’s holder and I wired the plug. Now for the moment...but for some reason, the bulb would not plug into the wall socket, which meant that the plug wouldn’t glow. We hummed a few bars of “Release Me” again and realised that by inserting the PLUG into the socket the outcome would be more desirable. This we did and to our surprise, the bulb shone just like bulbs do when they are connected successfully to a power supply. We made a note in our “Electrical Do’s and Don’ts book”, so that we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves again, should we follow a similar path in the future.
Proudly, we hung our 100 year old unplayable, unboxed, reed-based wind instrument (which had been thrown away on a public dump 20 years previously) from the ceiling, directly above the dining table. At last, we could see what we were eating. All those years of attempting to digest serrated knives, razor wire, safety pins, etc...whilst our food got cold. We finally had Clarity. If only we could think of a witty name for the light, but we just weren’t that bright.
A few weeks ago, we moved into our dream pioneer cabin and needed light over the dining table. We sat wearing our bowler hats and brightly coloured waistcoats, trying to come up with a solution to illuminate these dark autumnal evenings. We were reminiscing about the 100 year old unplayable éclair thing, thrown away on a public dump over 20 years ago and just by chance, there was a knock at the door and there appeared a friendly goatee-bearded chap, also wearing a bowler hat and a brightly coloured waistcoat...how uncanny is this? He said he had some advice for us regarding lighting, although he must have been some sort of musician as he had a long wind instrument in his hand. He went on to say that the local hardware store has a 2 for 1 offer on table lamps...that’s it! Sorted.