Reasons why Fran is now wary when opening the door to the pantry
'Oh, I'm so sorry. How did she die?'
'She tripped over the hose of the vacuum cleaner and, what's more, she hadn't even done the downstairs rooms.'
I'm not going to lie, it doesn't have the romanticism of 'She died of heartbreak' or 'She died rescuing someone from drowning' or even 'She fell into a crevasse while climbing in the Alps.'
Anyway, we opened the box excitedly. 'I'll find the instructions,' I said.
This picture shows the front page of the instruction booklet.
It says, 'Please read carefully before using this product.' The only problem is, the rest of the booklet looks like this. (I think you know what's coming, don't you?)
However carefully I read it, even while thinking hard about China, it was of no help.
That left us with a collection of items (below) and no idea what to do with them all, a bit like the first time you arrange the pieces of your new 1000 piece jigsaw on the table and realise it's all blue sky.
And here is my husband, trying to think back to 1967 and Design Technology lessons at school.
We tried various permutations to make it look like a vacuum cleaner and were initially as successful as nuns at their first orgy. 'Does this bit go here?' 'How does that fit there?' 'This part looks as though it should fit, but doesn't!' 'Should I push a bit harder, or will that damage it?'
We ended up with some sense of order and something that seemed like a vacuum cleaner with all its bits attached. At this point, my husband put it on the dining table to admire it.
We've been married for 37 years and yet I have not managed to train him out of putting items on our pine dining table that are likely to scratch it. The table is therefore scratched to perdition. I won't even begin on the story of the broken paving slab he put on it 20 years ago, but if you come round, you can see the groove it left, still big enough to hold some peas, or a chipolata sausage.
Anyway, we thought we'd won our battle with our new vacuum cleaner, and plugged it in to charge it, but then looked behind us to realise that we were left with this solitary little bendy hose (below) and no idea of its function or where it slotted in. Do you remember Games lessons at school and being the last one picked for a team, the one no one wanted? This hose felt just like that. What made it worse for him was knowing that, somewhere, in the Chinese instructions, was the clue to his destiny: a destiny never to be revealed.
We heard Henry yell to the hose from his place in the pantry, 'I know how you feel, mate! I've been retired early and there's not a damn thing wrong with me!'
And when your cleaning utensils start ganging up, you know you're in trouble.
'Oh, I'm so sorry. How did she pass away?'
'She was sucked up by a mutinous vacuum cleaner along with two bits of Lego the grandchildren forgot to put away and some grated cheese from under the table.'