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Meet my leetle freend

This is Henry. Oh, and it looks like he’s happy to see you!

Yes, my new vacuum has a name. And a smiley face. And a derby. (Eh. It could have been worse).

Don’t laugh; this is a serious piece of kit. The Numatic Company got its start forty years ago making industrial vacuums for cleaning out boilers.

Six people in a shed kludging together rugged little industrial workhorses. Originally, they made vacuums out of “found” components — oil drums, furniture casters, suitcase handles, kitchen mixing bowls.

I just love that.

You live in a 400 year old house, you have to vacuum. A LOT. In 360 degrees. Spiderwebs, bits of wool blown in from the fields, tiny fragments of oak beams. (Get me! I Hoover up artifacts from the reign of Elizabeth the First!)

It must be said, I’m awful at it. Here’s hoping a decent vacuum will help.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 29, 2010, 10:19 pm

And no…it was not a Christmas present. Uncle B thought that was just too awful, so when I asked for it, he just bought it.

Yep; it works great.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 29, 2010, 11:39 pm

Hunh. I have TWO decent vacuums (one is a Rainbow, which filters the sucked up stuff through water, so you don’t need to buy (or clean) filters; the other is a backpack, so you can walk around and climb ladders with it and don’t have to be tugging it behind you all the time). . .and I’m still awful at it. Not a good thing when you live with two cats, one of whom sheds his body weight in fur daily. . .

Maybe if one of the vacuums had a face. . .

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:10 am

Cats, eh?

As I remarked to Her Stoatliness: ‘I see “Can’t Hark” is owned by felines… There’s a surprise.’

She nodded and went back to one of her interminable Photoshop tutorials. Charlotte, curled-up beside, her, seemed to smile, in her endless sleep.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:13 am

The master bedroom has a tall, peaky ceiling (the picture in the upper left corner of the blog is our actual house). We had great festoons of spiderweb hanging down from the peak.

I used to try and snap them down with a towel.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:31 am

Uncle B–well, it is much better than it was 4 years ago, when I had FOUR of them. My two spayed girls, and the two neutered boys my brother adopted in 1988, then dumped on my parents in 1989 (transcontinental relocation), who came to live with me when my parents sold their house and moved to an Independent Living Facility in 2001. One of the remaining cats (the one who sheds the most) is one of the boys. Turning 23 on Saturday (I don’t know anyone’s actual birthday, so I use the racehorse paradigm). Old, cranky, wheezy and no longer very good at grooming himself, but still showing signs of living forever.

So, departing briefly from the stodgy image I fondly believe I project (don’t disillusion me, OK? But also–please don’t REASSURE me!), may I share the little chant I made up about them all some years ago, to preserve my sanity and sense of humor as my beautiful living-room rug slowly deteriorated?

“Eat and shit,
Drink and piss,
Lie down and shed!”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:41 am

I’m still trying to process the idea of a backpack vacuum cleaner. Make it gas powered, and I think I’m in love.

Comment from Mitchell
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:43 am

I bought a spiffy Orek XL (one of the upper-end ones) a couple years ago. Wonderful machine and very light. But now I got maids that come in every couple weeks and so I don’t vacuum anymore.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 30, 2010, 12:46 am

If I were raking in work, I’d definitely consider a maid. As it is, housework is my contribution to the household.

It’s just a pity I suck so hard at it.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 30, 2010, 1:02 am

I’m still trying to process the idea of a backpack vacuum cleaner. Make it gas powered, and I think I’m in love.

Well, mine is plug-in electric, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a gas-powered one. They were designed for professional cleaners of offices, and I thought it would get me to clean more often. The theory was that I would use the Rainbow for deep cleaning (it really is a terrific tool), then do weekly light cleaning walking around with the backpack.
Yes, well, that one went agley REAL fast. But I keep fantasizing some misty future. . .

Comment from Some vegetable
Time: December 30, 2010, 1:03 am

The vegetable family had 3 long-haired cats at one point –
Antonio whom we acquired in San Antonio
Giorgio (aka JoJo) who joined us in Atlanta
Gina who hailed from Williamsburg Virginia

Antonio lived 18 years
Jojo for 20
Gina for 17
All shedding, all the time.
Everything we owned was covered in cat hair. I remember when I picked up a blue blazer at the cleaners and kept it in the baq till we entered the party we were attending. I didn’t even put it on in the car. When we entered the party there was a long, white (Antonio) cat hair on my sleeve and the hostess commented on it.

Over the course of the years cat hair finally drove us to all leather-covered furniture and a (mostly) hardwood and tiled floored house and a dyson vacuum.

Now we only have one little 7 pound cat Koko (which means “Here” in Japanese and she’s not so much of a hair-could offender.

Life is sweet. Although I wish my vacuum had a little face and a dumbo nose.

Comment from MCPO Airdale
Time: December 30, 2010, 1:33 am

Henry looks like a pleasant enough bloke. Hattie, on the other hand, looks like a cheap harlot! Does she leave cards in the local telephone boxes?

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: December 30, 2010, 2:05 am

American Badgers have access to the best of all vacuums, The Shop Vac! Gad they are powerful, and can pump water, as well.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 30, 2010, 2:12 am

Hah! I had forgotten that I actually own THREE vacuum cleaners. The Shop Vac was acquired when the sewer system backed up into our office cellar. We could hire someone to drill out the tree roots which had blocked the sewer pipes, but noone wanted to come clean the sewage off the floor. Odd, really, because it wasn’t all that disgusting, and mostly smelled of ozone. . .anyway, since I cleaned up the glop (twice–the first “drill out the tree roots” guy didn’t do a particularly good job) I got to keep the Shop Vac. Which still comes in handy from time to time. . .

Comment from Monotone The Elderish
Time: December 30, 2010, 3:12 am

Sounds like the thing from ghost busters…. (the backpack one) Damn them spooks…… and dust bunnys…..

Comment from Deborah
Time: December 30, 2010, 3:19 am

Congratulations on your new vacuum cleaner. My husband used to sell janitorial supplies—I have the best cleaning equipment that money can buy. 🙂 I have a wet/dry vac that will suck the flowers off the carpet. Unfortunately, I am still a lousy housekeeper. 🙁

Comment from JuliaM
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:04 am

“And no…it was not a Christmas present. Uncle B thought that was just too awful…”

Smart man!

Comment from Deborah
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:51 am

A 400 yr. old house! Does it have a thatched roof? I can’t quite tell from the image.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 30, 2010, 2:27 pm

It doesn’t have one now, Deborah. We don’t know what it had in the past. It’s been altered a LOT over the years.

None of my cats have been serious shedders. The Cat Goddess has seen fit to send me all short-haired strays. But me? I shed something awful.

Wherever I go, there are clumps of me hair all over the place. I don’t know why I’m not bald.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: December 30, 2010, 2:56 pm

I have a cat and a piss poor Hoover vac. How do I stand it you ask? I hire maids who come every week.

Comment from Elphaba
Time: December 30, 2010, 7:00 pm

We have 5 indoor cats and one outdoor Tom who adopted us. The cat hair situation is obscene. I swear that if we acquire any new cats, they must be hairless. Worse than the hair is the catbox. We clean it twice a day and it is still gross.

So, Brits anthropomorphize their appliances? Interesting…

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: December 30, 2010, 7:38 pm

I have a vacuum…it’s in the garage somewheres I think. I never use it because I followed AB’s advice last year have the maids come in and do that for me (I so HATE housework). When I first moved in here I saw these acres of hard floors and said no freakin’ way, Jose. In between I’ll sweep up spills and the inevitable hair that accumulates from 3 dogs, 4 cats, and 2 long-haired humans, but I don’t vacuum. Or mop–I don’t even have one anymore.

And grateful for it.

If I lived in a 400 year old house I’d have to no doubt learn a whole hos of house cleaning techniques. 🙂

So, Stoaty–do you and UB have one o’ them new-fangled condensing boilers that apparently failed up and down the UK?

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: December 30, 2010, 7:52 pm

Errrr, that should be “host” of house cleaning technique, not “hos,” although if I did that on the side I’d likely make more money than I do teaching. 🙂

Comment from David Bain
Time: December 30, 2010, 9:17 pm

Elphaba needs to experience REAL gross. We take Pippin the cat and Jessie the dog on caravan holidays. Pippin has to be kept in in case he wanders and so he uses his litter box in the van doorway. Afterwards you hear him treading the litter and it’s a race to get up out of bed, bag the offending substance and tie it off before hurling it outside and slamming the door shut behind it, all without taking a breath . . .

Numatics, btw, work well, last a long time and are repairable. Try running that last word past most other manufacturers.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:28 pm

Hi Nina – Ol’ Stoaty is busy killing imaginary space aliens on her computer, so I’ll field that one. Apparently, the world will end if one gets through.

Or something.

Mercifully, when we bought this house we found the previous owner had fitted a non-condensing boiler, so we’ve been spared this misery.

The entire condensing boiler story should be held as an object lesson, They were sold to the last gummint by a bunch of crooked manufacturers, to placate the moaning of eco-fascists.

If we don’t do something about these loons, this won’t be the last such incident we’ll suffer. Indeed, electricity generation/transmission in the UK looks like being the next.

Comment from Janna
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:51 pm

I clean houses for a living, and get to experiment with other peoples cleaning toys. You quickly learn which ones work, and which ones are gimmicks.
At my house, I have a Roomba that is programmed to vacuum the front of the house on Mondays and the back of the house on Fridays. All I have to do is flip the dining room chairs to the tabletop, then flip them back when I get home. Cool.

But my Roomba needs a spiffy hat and big googly eyes. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a cuter vacuum than Henry.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:57 pm

My mother loves her various Dysons (she has one for upstairs, one for downstairs and a mini one for the stairs.) All my floors are tile and wood so I don’t have one. And a nice lady comes round once a week and tidies the place up for me, so that takes care of that.

The last government with their hysterical Green fear-mongering completely screwed up long-term energy provision in the UK. The current lot don’t look much better although they are a bit more pro-nuclear. People don’t realise what the likely consequences will be. I’ll tell you: famine and mass death. Wind power has to be mirrored 100% by backup, which means in this case gas, since those are the only things that can be spooled up fast enough. Without that protection (which is of course insanely expensive and subject to the whims of the not-very-nice people who supply the gas) then if a large stationary high pressure area parks itself ove the UK, the windmills will stop, and the power companies will be unable to provide for demand. They will then be forced to do what they call ‘load shedding’, which basically means turning off the power. If you do that in winter, which is exactly when you might expect a big high pressure area, then people will die. Shops’ just-in-time stock systems won’t work, and even if they did, the electronic tills won’t work. Factories will shut down, and offices will be empty because without power the computers and phones won’t work. Hospitals will be able to run on generators for a bit, but these will eventually fail and everyone in the ICU will die. Traffic will be chaos: most trains won’t run and traffic lights won’t work. Mobile telephony will go down, because the base stations won’t have power. It will be a catastrophe, and all because sound science has been hijacked by an unholy alliance of socialist power-grabbing maniacs and fanatical back-to-nature Druids. They should be hanged, the whole damn lot of ’em.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:12 am

You know that movie cliche’ where the town slattern finally makes love to the hero, and tearfully exclaims, “I never knew it could be like this!”?

Well, That’s how I feel about my Dyson. Just saying.

Your vacuum looks very cute. Enjoy.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:20 am

Hang on! You mean you make love to your… oh, I see.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:21 am

Yup, DG. But let’s make a concession to the little dears. We’ll use organic rope.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:23 am

Now, who knew that vacuum cleaners could be as engrossing as scars? [and will Bill “lotsa numbers” T have vacuum stories?]

The very first vacuum I ever owned (bought with my first ever charge card, an E.J. Korvette’s account in NYC in, um, the late 70s) was a portable Hoover (well, I remember it as a Hoover).

Portable? Sure. It had a rigid case roughly 18x12x6 (but with casters on one of the 18×12 sides), which opened up like a suitcase to reveal a rigid plastic surface where all the tools and wands and the hose were stored, each in its own little shaped dent. The hose end snapped into a port in the butt end of the suitcase (I think–gee, how could I have forgotten that detail?; the port may have been in the middle of the rigid plastic surface, but I don’t THINK you had to keep the lid up while vacuuming. . .); the bag resided under the rigid plastic surface, which could be unlocked and raised to change the bag. The end of the suitcase opposite the butt had a handle. So, you could pick it up and carry it with you anywhere.

It must be a sign of aging that it has finally dawned on me what a very odd concept that was. Did the manufacturer contemplate that you would take it with you to motels to ensure the cleanliness of your room? Or, perhaps, to social gatherings?

All the same–it was what I could afford at the time, it did the job adequately, and it worked just fine for many years. I think I still have it, actually, but haven’t seen the BAGS on sale for at least a decade. Style K, I think. . .

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:37 am

There’s still a thriving market over here for the old 1950s/60s sit-up-and-beg Hoovers, which are carefully restored and sell for surprising amounts of money. Apparently they are incredibly rugged (metal, not plastic) and do a good job.

Vacuum cleaners…. who’d a thunk it?

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:40 am

OK, Uncle B, watch me lob a grenade and run for cover. . .

Canister vacuums are, of course, infinitely superior to uprights.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:46 am

Oh, right. Vacuum-related flame wars. I deserve this at some level.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:52 am

Oops! Sorry–but, really, it is entertaining to listen to the debate between those passionately committed to the upright and those equally committed to the canister.

What? Yes, yes indeed, I have been there.

[hangs head in shame for trying to subject sweasel to it]


Happy New Year?

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:59 am

The entire condensing boiler story should be held as an object lesson, They were sold to the last gummint by a bunch of crooked manufacturers, to placate the moaning of eco-fascists.

Glad to hear it Unk B. Those things just don’t make any sense at all, but that seems to be a requirement for public service these days–no sense, only agenda, wherein ideology trumps reality.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 31, 2010, 12:59 am

wld tr type in flm war bt wzl stttng on me

Comment from some vegetable
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:11 am

Vacuum wars? YOUR vacuum Sucks! Er, rather doesn’t sucks. Well it does but not in a good way – oh hell – never mind. You know what I mean. My mother had a Kirby with ALL the attachments – even the meatgrinder I think.
The salesman sold it to her door-to-door by throwng a dixe cup of sand on her carpet when she answered his knock. I’llclean it up he said. Damn right you will she answered. Then he proved her old hoover sucked or didn’t. Ohh hell never mind

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:12 am

Uncle B: knky!

Some Vegetable: from Nancy Hogan Trochek’s delightful 1992 debut mystery novel Every Crooked Nanny:
“You can have your Hooverd and your Eurekas and al lthem fancy machines. Give me an Electrolux three and a half horespower any old day. Those babies can flat suck.

Comment from Pupster
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:18 am

You’d better unplug Henry when you are not using him. They can go rogue.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:19 am

Sigh. Comes of playing “beat the clock” on editing (I had to go find the book. . .is that an admission or geekery, or something?)
“You can have your Hoovers and your Eurekas and all them fancy machines. Give me an Electrolux three and a half horespower any old day. Those babies can flat suck.”
Neva Jean, of the House Mouse cleaning service. . .and occasional detective agency.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:30 am

While we’re on the subject (and thanks to Pupster for digging up a LONG-buried memory!):


Comment from Oh Hell
Time: December 31, 2010, 2:44 am

Have you tried a flame thrower for the cobwebs…oh wait, you are in the house…

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: December 31, 2010, 4:24 am

Comment from David Gillies
Time: December 30, 2010, 10:57 pm

Mr. Gillies is accurate, albeit he is giving the optimistic best case scenario wherein there is sufficient advance notice to shut down various industrial processes. Quite a few take sudden interruptions of power … poorly; sometimes explosively, and/or in a way as to destroy the industrial plant for further use.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: December 31, 2010, 4:39 am

CHMC: re your hoover with handles – all consumer durables that weigh more than 15 lbs should have carrying handles on them by force of law. One of the most awesome features on my Mum’s Mac is the loop handles built into the case in acrylic plastic. Now that’s ergonomics (sounds like a Jam song.)

We had an Electrolux when I was a kid (it was an Electrolux hoover in Britain in the 70’s, which just just goes to show how badly Hoover Corp. lost their trademark fight on the UK side of the Pond.) It was awful. Jeez, the number of times I stripped that bloody thing down to fish out some furball that had become stuck in a fan belt or clean the carbon brushes in the motor. It got to the point where I could disassemble and rebuild the thing like a Marine with his rifle (and I was only nine.) The arrival of the Dyson sounded like Spring from the Peer Gynt Suite. And they last forever. The first (downstairs) one my folks bought dates from (?) 1996. I think we tend to forget through a mist of nostalgia just how remarkably crap household machinery was even 30 years ago. No-one these days would stand for the sort of jerry-rigged bollocks we had to put up with in the 70’s. One of the reasons Numatics is still going strong is they bucked the trend and didn’t make products that, if one were to call them half-assed, one would be over-praising them by at least 100%. I give Uncle B. one shudder-inducing memory of how awful the whole decade was: Party Fives. Christ, it tasted like earwax.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: December 31, 2010, 4:43 am

Oh, SB, I know. I was merely cataloguing the most salient disasters that could befall a modern industrial society if the lights go out. The full panoply of horror could be expanded upon to book length.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: December 31, 2010, 1:57 pm

Um, I don’t entirely agree, David Gillies. When my parents closed their home to move to an Independent Living Facility (step down from actual independence–step up from Assisted Living) in 2000 my mother still had (and was using as one of her three vacuums in that three-floored home) the Revelation they had bought early on. It was around as long as I remember, so it was at least 45 years old, possibly older. (and, yes, it had a handle–but it was NOT designed to be a suitcase). She also had her mother’s carpet sweeper, but I don’t know if it still worked. And various elderly small electric kitchen appliances, which she used regularly.

On the flip side–I have had, over the years, a number of electronic items which were clearly not intended or expected by their manufacturers to be in use for more than 3 years. I recently had a 7 month old caller ID go bad and short out my telephone system; but it only had a 3 month warranty, and as I hadn’t purchased the long-term protection they try to sell you at the register (do the math on THAT sometime!) I was out of luck. Still, the infant serving in the store said consolingly, it had “lasted a good long time.” No doubt 7 months WAS a long time in his short life.

All depends on what is is and who made it. Planned obsolescence has been around since at least the 30s. . .

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