Ingenuity sparks catalogue allure

RO CAMBRIDGE
Last updated 13:56 11/09/2012

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Ro Cambridge

Back in my day, I might have revealed it all Hunting and gathering ‘over there’ When hangovers are delicious Values lost in Christmas snow job Adventures in op-shop land Outfox the terrierists, for Pete's sake A place to give thanks for being alive Speed dating yields valuable insight Caring and sharing in a small space Reclaiming street giant leap for city

I'd like to apologise to anyone offended by references in my last column to bladder function and madness. If you were disturbed by those graphic descriptions of human deterioration, you should read no further.

I must be going through a bit of a bad patch because I still feel an irresistible urge to descend once more to the underworld where human frailty is writ large and intimations of mortality are ubiquitous. You have been warned.

I'm referring, of course, to mail-order catalogues with names like MegaMail or HomeMall which insinuate themselves into the house each month, completely unbidden.

I suspect they Trojan Horse themselves on to the coffee table between the pages of some other reading matter that's way more cool and intellectual. How else could they possibly get into the house - except inside my subscriptions for Rocket Science Monthly, Sudoku for the Gifted, Mensa Magazine, and Advanced Post-Modernism?

I struggle to explain why I find them so fascinating. I could blame it on my mother whose very modest bookshelf was populated solely with titles like Better Sight without Glasses, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and the St John's Ambulance First Aid Manual.

Next to handwritten recipes in her cookbook for "Minnie's Boiled Fruit Cake" my mother wrote notes on curing sheepskins, removing paint from concrete floors and mending cracked mixing bowls. She also pasted in magazine clippings on “Successful Wharf Fishing”, “How Not to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent” and “Don't be a Donkey to Housework”.

Perhaps this early glimpse into life's challenges conveyed alongside a confidence in human ingenuity is the origin of my adult fascination with the genre?

Actually, I think it is probably because they are the most comprehensive treatises on the human condition available today. Every slim issue of MegaMail invites us to gaze on every weakness that flesh is heir to: poor posture, stained teeth, weak wrists, weak bladders (sorry to bring this up again), cracked heels, bunions, snoring, ill-fitting dentures, ugly blemishes, nasal hair, puffy eyes, age spots, back pain and squinting. Not to mention dangerous falls, specks of lint, signs of ageing, nasty accidents, the torment of ingrown toe nails, offensive odours and painful rubbing and Chafing. The resulting compendium of woe is somehow comforting, rather than distressing.

It's consoling to know that you are not alone in your travails and reassuring to discover that others are even worse off. Your heart lifts when you find that some people are martyrs to the "strain and pain associated with regular potato mashing”.

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You are chuffed to find that, for the moment at least, you have no need to "discourage rolling feet”. In fact, you have no idea what rolling feet are, unless they have something to do with Ancient Mariners.

While you may struggle to get out of bed occasionally, you are stunned to find that some people need assistance to “get into bed easy!” Likewise, you feel rather smug that, unlike some unfortunates, you are still able to “sit in comfort for long periods” without any great effort.

MegaMail exudes positivity - there is no problem in life that can't be fixed or banished with an appliance payable in three easy instalments. I argue that these catalogues should really be placed in the self-help category of self-help books.

You know the sort of thing - The Power of Positive Thinking; Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway; Change Your Life in Under a Minute; Self-Discipline in 10 Days et cetera.

However, unlike self-help books, catalogues never imply self-blame (Why Don't I Do The Things I Know Are Good For Me?; Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life) or cynicism (Faking It: How to Seem Like a Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself).

Do you know that the self-help genre has grown so large that there are self-help books about self-help books? A recent addition to the canon is How to Stop Reading Self-Help Books: Some Simple Steps and a Dash of Critical Thinking.

In comparison, MegaMail-world is a benign and tranquil place. Fill in an order form, post a cheque, and in next to no time help arrives on your doorstep.

In MegaMail-World there's a gadget to fix every problem - even rare phobias like the dread of cheese graters, squashed bananas or moth balls that are not of the everlasting type. From the privacy of your own home you can order anything from a Jumbo Pack of Corn Pads or a Handy Jack and Jill Portable Urinal Set (sorry), to Super S-T-R-E-T-C-H Belts and Instant Aprons which Slip on and off in a Second.

If you are keen to enjoy your ability to sit in comfort for long periods while you still can, MegaMail has a vast collection of labour-saving devices, too. There are gadgets which will firm & tone your tummy while you watch TV and assist you to slice cheese with ease, clean your toilet without bending, dispense toothpaste with just one touch, and repair small dents yourself.

MegaMail delivers fun and amusement into lives blighted by sagging mattresses and bra straps that cut in.

After all, life's not meant to be all struggle and heartbreak. A sentiment MegaMail expresses so well - “Why Wring Your Mop When You Can Spin It?”

Yes, everyone should have the ability to “turn snacks into an inviting centrepiece” at their next dinner party or track of what remains of their lifespan with a clock which “meows on the hour”. Unless, of course, all that hourly meowing makes them wish euthanasia was legal in New Zealand.

I've just placed an order with MegaMail myself. I hope it will help when I'm struggling to write articles or columns of a certain size.

According to MegaMail it will Inflate Anything, Anywhere, In an Instant.

- Nelson

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