Last Thursday's Vide Grenier (French car boot/garage sale) yielded fine things: two white china hotel-ware casseroles, 1920's teapot, shoes, jeans, Café de la paix ash-tray and this excellent example of early twentieth century 'aspiration'- an all metal and bakelite hoover.
I had casually picked up a more recent model (1960s) to examine it when the lady 'vendeur' said:
"Madame (you are obviously the sort of mad person who might consider what I am about to suggest) we have an earlier type of aspirateur here in this valise. "Would you care to - "
"Yes," I replied far too quickly, snapping open the case's locks, and gazing with adoration on chrome and early fake crocodile skin.
"It is old, Madame,"
I waited for the usual follow up words that would proclaim old to be equal to very expensive, but no! Five euros . . .
"Does it work," I asked nonchalantly.
"Bien sur, Madame - come we will find a plug."
Grasping the hoover she barged into a house on the square and demanded we try the apparatus. The two elderly people engaged in making their lunch stood back and covered their ears, perhaps wary of a possible house-wrecking explosion while their neighbour searched for a suitable socket. The machine started as if it had never been in storage and efficiently sucked up crumbs and dog hair much to the amazement of the small crowd that had gathered on the step.
I paid my five euros; we agreed that the deal benefited everyone and I walked back to the car realising the hoover's motor alone probably weighed more than thirty Dyson's.
When we got it home, I cleaned it and tested it out the various shaped tools on our sofa and floor while making a mental comparison to our sulking yellow, plastic Miele model. It is heavy, yes, but very powerful with two cloth bags you can change over and wash out. The tools are beautifully ergonomic especially the main metal one with a swivelling action that reaches every crumb of dried out cat food in every corner of the kitchen. It is more of a 'performance' to use this vacuum; a conscious effort: "Let's DO the hoovering," unpacking the ceremonial case, twisting the chrome poles into place - click-click . . .
To read the instruction manual is a trip back into time as well - the first page reading:
'Madame, we wish that your 'Lux' will give you all the satisfaction that you have the right to wait for in your abode: comfort, hygiene and rest, that will allow you to have more leisure time; in one word, a faithful servant, sure and devoted . . . '
Must go and find the Miele book, if we still have it. I can't imagine the prose being quite so poetic - or sexist!