True gripes; electric toasters

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I have just chucked out our umpteenth electric toaster. Three months out of guarantee, it's as dead as a doornail and I'm not really surprised. Used to it, in fact, for of all electrical appliances, the toaster is the most predictably unreliable. In an age when men can walk on the moon, surf the Internet and build cars that will survive Nigel Mansell's driving, they still can't make a toaster which will survive making toast.

Our first toaster, a chromium-plated Morphy Richards job which did two bits of toast without fuss or frills, lasted four years. Since then, toaster technology seems to have gone into decline, if not reverse. Over a period of about 30 years, we have had toasters with hinged crumb trays, variable browning facilities and a frozen bread option. The one thing they had in common was that they all stopped making toast shortly after the expiry of the guarantee period.

Our latest acquisition was near the top of the price range, the triumph of optimism over experience, you might say. It had sleek white lines, a classy logo and a microchip. It lived for precisely 15 months and still looked so new that for once, I hesitated to throw it away. The man in the electrical repair shop took one look at it and shook his head.

"Can't help you," he said. "They've been taken over and we can't get the parts. You could send it to the new people, but frankly, I wouldn't bother. Cheaper to buy a new one."

Since this accorded with our experience over the years, I knew he wasn't just trying to sell me something. He added - and I believe him - that the average life of an electric toaster is about 18 months and that you'd be daft to buy an expensive one. Better still, he said, use the grill. Unfortunately, ours isn't at eye-level, so I settled for a really cheap toaster and live in hope.

I have an electric fire made in 1952 which still works. My food mixer was bought in 1966, my last fridge, still used by my daughter, in 1977. My house is full of appliances which have lasted for years, so what is it with toasters? I think someone should dig out the specification for that old 1950s Morphy Richards version, forget the frills and just start making them again the way they did in the good old days. After all, there's nothing fancy you can do with a piece of toast.

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