How many men does it take to change a light bulb? Just one – as long as he is a qualified and experienced electrician. The bulb in question is, in fact, an LED embedded deep in a recessed fitting in my kitchen ceiling. When I had the old light fittings replaced three years ago, I was so enthralled by the reassurance that these new LEDs offered low energy consumption and incredible longevity that I gave no more thought to their eventual replacement than a teenager would give to retirement options. However, this morning, as I balanced on a dining chair with the beam of my head torch flickering weakly on the ceiling and struggled to extract the ‘bulb’ that had been blinking for several days, I had cause to question my lack of foresight and regret my ignorance of advanced lighting technology.
I had been putting off the task until I had resolved another household technical issue, the supposedly essential software upgrade to our mobile phones. (My partner and I have the same model for reasons to do with convenience and domestic harmony.) While I accept that technological advances are necessarily cumulative and that obsolescence is all part of that process, I am also wary of the disruption to one’s routines that can result. In this case, just when I thought I had my digital affairs in order, Microsoft decided to fiddle with my filing system and reorganise it in such a labyrinthine fashion that I had to spend days finding stuff. It’s a bit like having someone ‘tidy’ your study in your absence without your permission and finding, when you return, that they have gone AWOL, leaving you to cope on your own with the anxiety of lost folders and shredded to-do lists.
Of course, I had a cunning plan to minimise the anticipated pain of updating our phones: it was to try it first on mine. There is only one thing worse than getting in a pickle with your phone and that is screwing up your partner’s: the ensuing recriminations bring even more pain. In the end – despite the tensions and the moments of panic – this proved to be a successful strategy, though it left me drained and with some residual tidying-up of stray apps and unfamiliar ring-tones. Then, flushed with success, I came to tackle the light bulb. Perhaps I should have taken a few days for recovery, for my failure here tested my resilience and found it wanting. Defeated, I phoned the electrician and retreated to the tranquillity of the coffee bar in the lobby of a nearby hotel, where I calmed myself over a cappuccino, pondering the while whether tech-anxiety really is related to ageing. Not that I regard myself as old. Only a few evenings previously, while walking in the company of an even older man, a tout approached and offered us free entry tickets to a local lap-dancing club. When I protested our dignified senior status, the young whipper-snapper winked and said “You’re never too old, gents.” We declined his offer, not only because we were on our way to dinner with our partners, the two ladies walking a few yards ahead of us.
Meanwhile, the calm of the hotel lobby had the desired effect and, with no wi-fi connection, I felt cosseted within an old-fashioned environment, safe from the thrusting, youthful demands of technology. I was reading old-style print and came across this quote: There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age. The author was not a renowned philosopher, but that goddess of the silver screen, Sophia Loren. I’ll bet she also would have been able to tell me how many men it takes to change a light bulb.