Aging Lad let us into his bachelor pad and clicked a light switch, which did nothing. ‘It’s sort of gloomy in here, isn’t it?’ I said, as I aimed for the kitchen and bumped my nose on the wall. ‘Is this your low light seduction technique?’
‘No’, he said grumpily, feeling around the counters for the kettle, ‘I’ve used my last proper light-bulb and I’ve only got energy-saving ones left.’
‘I think you can still get the normal ones for a while’, I said, as the bulb slowly began doing what it was paid to do, e.g. cast some light. I can remember when tellies warmed up in similarly unhurried fashion. ‘I was planning to stockpile some.’
Lad grabbed my arm and for one horrible minute I thought the dim atmosphere had made him forget himself. But no, he was merely trying to find me in the gloaming. ‘Where?’ he gasped. ‘Where can you get them?’
We abandoned our tea plans and went into town. ‘I’ll leave the lights on’, Lad said. ‘They might just be up to capacity by the time we get back.’
There’s only one place in town for this kind of purchase, so we went to Bunces and immediately got distracted by their fascinating array of goods. Where else can you buy a squashy lemon-shaped egg-timer? Where else can you get a cover for your wheelie bin that makes it look like a wheelie bin shaped conifer hedge? Nowhere, that’s where. Finally we remembered our mission. We grabbed armfuls of the old type of bulbs, thoughtfully leaving a few for anyone else out there who likes to read in the evenings.
We staggered back up the hill under the weight of our illicit booty. ‘Pah to Europe and their attempted stranglehold on all that’s great and British’, said Lad, trying to do a power salute but unable to raise his carrier bag-laden arms.
‘I’ve warned you before about reading the Daily Mail’, I said. ‘And how are bulbs British? Wasn’t Edison American?’
‘That’s right. Us and the Yanks against Brussels.’ He’s sweet, is Lad, but a bit of a dim bulb.
The rest of the way home we discussed whether it’s true that energy bulbs last a lifetime, and if so, whether that spelled the end for light bulb jokes.
‘Although’, I pointed out, ‘the Jewish mother one – “don’t worry about me, I’ll just sit here in the dark” – is quite apt for the eco-bulbs.’
We got back to Lad’s house, which was lit up like something quite dark. He claimed that this made him incandescent with rage, and ran round the house putting in 100 watts until everything was illuminated. He shoved all the energy bulbs to the back of a cupboard, apart from one. ‘I’ll hang on to this for my bedroom’, he said with a leer. A light bulb came on above my head, and I took my leave.
Beth Miller, 25th November 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith