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Batteries not included

April 5, 2013

For my husband’s 40th birthday, some well-meaning but frankly irresponsible friends bought him a remote controlled helicopter. Maybe it was to mark a milestone, to demonstrate that just because one is now in their fifth decade one can still have fun; maybe it was because they decided freshly painted walls look better with gouge marks in them; perhaps they didn’t foresee that an afternoon nap could be so dramatically livened up by eight rotating blades. Maybe they’re just sadistic.

In any case, the helicopter lay dormant in its box for three weeks as we didn’t have the requisite half-dozen double AA batteries for its operation, as my husband is too allergic to Tesco to buy any, and I am too absent minded (and perhaps too reminded of the last occasion when a toy required batteries, of which more later) to purchase any myself.

When at last the batteries were procured, the screwdriver necessary to open the remote control located, and the cat had signaled his intentions to leave home, the helicopter was given its test flight. Approximately seven seconds and a smashed glass later, we decided the kitchen table was perhaps not the optimum launch pad, and opted for the floor. Neither of us foresaw the mess that could be made from the helicopter’s downdraft over the ash bucket, or indeed just how quickly plastic can melt following an emergency landing on top of the fire itself. It has remained in its box since.

Six batteries richer, we rummaged through cupboards in the hope of finding some other lithium-ion-fuelled entertainment, and happened upon the afore-mentioned toy, a stylophone, crammed under magazines, books and strings of fairy lights in a ‘I do hope Ben never sees or remembers this thing ever again’ sort of a way. It’s my own fault – I bought it myself in a moment of weakness one Christmas Eve when I discovered the only items I had so far bought to go in my husband’s stocking were a torque wrench and a box of mint matchmakers which, in the end, didn’t make it that long. I was only vaguely aware of what it was as I crammed it into a basket containing sundry electrical items for nephews and nieces and elbowed my way to the till. I discovered exactly what it was in the ensuing days and weeks, which is why it found its eventual (but sadly not final) resting place in the darkest depths of the cupboard some weeks later, when I staged a suitable diversion for a few moments (possibly the last of the matchmakers).

And now it’s back in our lives, sounding like some sort of demented wasp in the key of E, misplaying ‘Silent Night’ and making me curse the Duracell family forever more. The cat has dug out his suitcase, given me a pitiful look, and slunk off into the night (regrettably not silent), only to return once the allotted four to six weeks of battery life is fully spent. I wish him well.

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