A light clicks on in battle of the bulbs

Long, long time ago - I am not sure exactly when, so lost is it in things like aeons and phases of the moon and space-time continuums and so forth - one of the spotlight bulbs in our bedroom blew.

Now it happens that nothing, nothing, is so calculated as the de-functioning of a light bulb to produce in me one of those long, loud groans that are meant to indicate that the world is too much with us. Or with me, anyway. I can cope swimmingly with world wars; I am unconcerned about pitch-dark chasms of emptiness in the most distant systems of the cosmos; and even spiders in the bathroom leave me strangely unperturbed.

But light bulbs, and particularly spotlight bulbs, that shine willingly one minute and are dim and unilluminable glass onions the next, push me over the brink of rational tranquillity into an abyss of rant and rave.

And there is a mystery about light bulbs. If one goes, six will. They seem to get the idea from one another. Actually, I blame Scottish Power (the current name of our electricity suppliers). I believe these suppliers periodically go in for "surges." And surges are not good for light bulbs.

Not for today's light bulbs, anyway, which are altogether unprepared for such sudden influxes.

You don't believe me? So why is it that everyone over 6 or 7 will tell you that they can remember old light bulbs, in the garage or the basement, that they didn't need to replace for years? Light bulbs installed by the previous generation; light bulbs their great-granny put in. They never mention new light bulbs with longevity like that.

THE bulbs of today, whose cost is often beyond rubies, are, I am convinced, actually designed to last no longer than a week or two, or how will their manufacturers be able to keep their turnover turning over? They are probably in cahoots with the electricity suppliers (who in turn undoubtedly have shares in the bulb-manufacturing companies or simply own them).

The periodic power surges are part and parcel of the whole successful arrangement.

And then there's the question of who designed our bedroom spotlight fixtures. And the ones in the sitting room. And the ones we used to have all over my study. And all over the kitchen. I would like to meet him or her, and discuss a pertinent matter over a generous repast of homemade stinging-nettle and thistle sorbet.

That pertinent matter is: Why design a fixtures so that the bulbs fit into them so closely that it is impossible for the fingers of a hand to take hold of said bulb in order to remove it? Spotlight bulbs are shiny, slippery things, and if you can't get a firm grasp on them. They slide and slither under all attempts at grip and remain firmly entrenched.

I have been known to resort to ineffectual damp cloths; to useless glue-smeared suction pads; to overlarge plungers; and even to mallets and pliers. (My smash-and-grab technique, while leaving shards of glass permanently embedded in the carpet below and exposing to the air dangling filaments and twisted metal fragments, still fails to disengage bulb from socket.)

But the best technique of all, I have concluded, is just to leave the dead bulb in its socket and save electricity.

The results of this last technique have been various. In the kitchen and study, tiring eventually of candlelight, we have replaced the old spotlights with new ones. And now, at last, there are new bulbs of smaller girth on the market, so that replacing them is a physical possibility. In the sitting room, two of the old spotlights remain, unused.

One of them actually exploded, so keeping a respectful distance from it at all times seems advisable.

And in the bedroom, as I started to say, one old-type spotlight has, against precedent, gone on working for years, while the other has, as they say of theaters, been dark for ages and ages....

THE boss, sensitive perhaps to danger, has not been pressing me much lately about replacing this bulb. Actually, she gave up trying long since. People do if they are ignored a sufficient number of times, I find. And there is also the competitive question of my long-standing endeavors to finish several hundred other projects around the house and garden, by order of the management. Said projects overlay one another like multiple Microsoft windows.

But on Saturday she did, very quietly, refer to the bedroom bulb again, just after I came in from a four-hour stint on the new duck house. I groaned, naturally. An armchair was my main thought.

"It has been two years," she observed gently.

"Never!" I said.

"Or longer," she suggested.

"Oh all right," I muttered. "I will see if I can get it out. But no promises: You know what those old bulbs are like. I am not going to struggle with it. If it's impossible, it will just have to stay as it is."

So I fetched the stepladder. Opened it. Stood on it. Reached the bulb. Turned it. It came out as easily as melting snow off a wall-top. I popped in a replacement. The whole process took, perhaps, 40 seconds.

"No problem," I said. "Job done. I can't imagine why I didn't I do it before."

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