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Created on 20/7/2008

There are times when you are very lucky. For me, such a time is now. I have the joy of being surrounded by my family, for those of you who have shared such an experience you know what I mean, and I can only wish such an experience for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to share it.

On a recent weekend I had my four grand children staying over. Little Ollie is just a couple of weeks old, and is clearly going to be a little charmer. He smiles in recognition and the beginnings of focus as he greedily sucks in the world with his eyes as he drinks milk happily. Every part of him is a pleasure given to us by a generous nature, whatever name you give it. I don’t know about higher beings but I do know that if there is one he or she has been very generous to me recently. I looked up a dimly remembered quote by Robert Louis Stevenson; “I will make brooches and toys for your delight – Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.” If I could give these lovely children the world I would.

When I was a boy, two thousand years ago, we used to get on our horse and canter down to the corner street shops where such things were easily available. Now there are very few such corner shops, in fact there seem to be fewer corners!

Therefore I drove my fuel-eating car to purchase some water pistols at the ubiquitous Tesco’s. I suppose I was feeling the need to give the taxman some more money. You all remember that water pistols always came with a simple pump action and were made to look like mini guns whose purpose was to shoot a refreshing and annoying stream of water at our friends and enemies. No longer, now these are sophisticate apparatus, manufactured overseas. These devices operate on Double A batteries that are not supplied by the shop or the makers. You need a Philips screwdriver to open the battery compartment; fortunately we had the necessary equipment and batteries.

It only took a few minutes to undo the impossible packaging to gain access to the wonderfully designed guns that look more space revolvers.

Another few minutes of fiddling and unscrewing got us into the battery compartments where we inserted the batteries. We tested the device and noted it made all the right noises.

The grand children were, by now, hopping from foot to foot in excited anticipation. We filled the guns with water and, careful to go into the garden before soaking the general environment, we then fired the guns. Nothing happened, it was a wet fart on a sunny afternoon, no one can hear it and no one cares. In the kingdom of water activity this was a singularly wet squib.

The kids were distraught, looking at me as if I had intentionally and personally let them down. I was distressed as their perception of me descended from super poppa to my being slightly more evil than Stalin and Hitler combined.

Enormously relieved I handed the malfunctioning weapons to Mrs. Klinger, who is usually able to make anything work with just a withering look and a very strong, well chosen encouraging word or two.

No, even she who must be obeyed was unable to command performance.

It now fell to our number two daughter, Sarah, a frightening genetic hybrid between all that is good from the two of us. She can make a Mac do magic tricks, so she must be a genius. But even the smiling and serene Sarah, Deputy Director of a school no less, could not make these guns ejaculate their water.

Undeterred, the women advanced on the unfortunate supermarket to retrieve our money in exchange for their inoperative water pistols. The shop gave in without any resistance, plainly knowing that the pistols were defective before the women opened their mouths.

I wonder what John (Jack) Cohen, the founder of Tesco would have made of this approach, his slogan was, “Pile it high, sell it cheap” but he built an empire by delivering reasonable quality at a reasonable price.

Clutching this refund in hand the ladies then diverted to Toys R Us. Here they purchased bigger and better looking water pistols. In fact they look more like the water cannon the police use to break up particularly troublesome riots. Of course, you and I both know that the ladies had not learned their lesson. Just because these weapons were made of bigger and shinier plastic they still were doomed to fail the acid test, which is work how they’re supposed to. As Michelangelo said, “Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.”

One of the water cannons didn’t work at all, and the other one’s batteries went down more rapidly than the elevator in the Empire State Building. There were a few moments of joy during which the water jetted forward in a long and happy arc, but it didn’t last. More sadness ensued, more promises given of replacements but kids want these things to work immediately, like us all, they are used to instant gratification. It isn’t much to ask is it, a water pistol that can fire some water?

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