ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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The Independent Culture
LAST week a big new book arrived in the post. It is entitled Enquire Within Upon Everything; the cover announces that this is 'The Ultimate Problem Solver', a 'complete home reference book'. The author is Moyra Bremner, and she knows everything.

She knows about the etiquette of tea. ('Neither doilies nor cake forks should be used.') She knows about Aids (you can catch it from toothbrushes and shaving razors, but not from lavatory seats). She knows about E numbers and Ecstasy and eczema and egg custard. She knows about embroidery, too.

Inspired by her energy, my husband retrieved the old sewing machine from beneath the stairs and decided to make some new bedroom curtains. He has never sewed anything before and I gave up when I was 14, after making depressingly slow progress at school on a nightie. So it was all down to Moyra for needlework advice.

So far, the curtains aren't finished, despite his intensive work during the Manchester United versus Oldham FA Cup semi-final (he stopped only to shout at the goalkeeper). He's still pinning today, and has become very taciturn. Moyra's book, he says, does not actually explain every detail of curtain-making. It assumes he knows what the selvage is; unfortunately he does not, and neither do I.

Which just goes to show that nobody is Superwoman; for once you start looking, Moyra doesn't know about absolutely everything (or if so, she's left a few things out of her book). Yesterday, for example, I needed immediate health advice; my son had brought his digger back from the sandpit in the local park, covered in dog shit. I was sure he'd already put his dirty hands in his mouth - and what if he'd got some dreadful disease? So I looked up Toxocara canis, and all Moyra had to say was: 'Infected children have been blinded and the damage can be fatal. So it is better not to let children play where dogs have been exercised.' Yes Moyra, but what was I supposed to do now? Rush him to hospital? Wash out his mouth with soap? In the end I did nothing, except worry.

Also, Moyra has nothing to say on the pressing subject of limescale removal; and although she includes a very useful map of the shipping forecast areas, she doesn't explain why Dogger is called Dogger.

But don't get me wrong; I'm not gloating about these deficiencies. Moyra clearly is an incredibly well-informed woman who knows more than I can ever hope to know about all manner of strange and wonderful things. I just think it's a mistake for her publicist to call her Superwoman, even if she is a glamorous former model, a poet and computer expert, a fully qualified teacher and psychologist, a great cook and fantastic mother of three. OK, OK enough already . . . she's a genius.-

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