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September 2001 - In the Dark

I've spent the last few days trying to remember when it was that the television commercials for Mazda light bulbs included the jingle that went along the lines "Mazda lamps stay brighter longer".

I should think it was an awful lot of years ago now, as whoever I've asked about it recently has simply given me a totally blank look, rather than a reply.

The particular jingle in question is of interest to me for this month's exciting edition of Comment because I'm quietly puzzling to myself over how exactly the Trades Descriptions Act works, and whether or not I can make a claim based on an incorrect television jingle from, something like, forty years ago.

You see, I went to my local Safeway store about three months ago to buy some sixty watt light bulbs.

On this huge fitment I found lots and lots of these new-fangled pseudo light bulbs. You know, the ones like miniature fluorescent fittings which only use about nine watts and are supposed to last for ages and ages.

Having rummaged for a little while, I eventually managed to find the REAL light bulbs, the ones that I'd wanted to buy in the first place.

I mean, I don't want these funny new-fangled things, I want proper, old fashioned light bulbs; and there is a very good reason for that. I live in a flat, and very few of my light fittings are in the ceiling. Most of them are on the wall.

Now, this poses a bit of a problem with lamp shades, you see. Because of the wall lights, the lamp shades have to be the ones with the two springy bits of wire in them, which sort-of clamp themselves round the light bulb to stay in place.

"Ding ding" I hear some of you cry, "now the plot really begins to unfold".

Yes folks, the trouble with the new style fancy fluorescent light bulbs is that they're NOT light bulb shaped. Most of them are like a little tube, all folded up in a zig-zag. Now, how the heck do you get the bits of wire in your lamp shade to clamp themselves round these stupid shaped loads of rubbish?

The answer is that you don't! It's all very well being a good green conservationist and wanting to consume nine watts when you used to use sixty, but if you can't get the lamp shade to stay on, what else can you do but use the traditionally shaped bulbs which use all the extra power.

It wouldn't quite be so bad if these new fangled things weren't so disgustingly ugly.

I mean, you can't even leave them there without a shade on because they look like a great dollup of folded up large intestine stuck there in the light fitting.

And all this ignores other little factors like the way they insist on humming to themselves all the time; the way they seem to interfere with anything in the room that uses a remote control; and the fact that the light emanating from them might be pure white, but it doesn't half give the room a cold feel.

So, meanwhile back at the plot, you now know why I was rummaging away in Safeway's for real, proper, old fashioned, traditional, sixty watt light bulbs.

As I've said, they did have some, but not a lot, as Mr Daniels would say. Mazda sixty watt light bulbs it said on the boxes, just what I wanted, so six of them went gently into the trolley.

Now, I'm afraid I'm going to have to digress for a couple of moments again here, if only to bemoan the passing of the traditional electrical shop, where you would never dream of buying a light bulb without seeing them pop it into the test socket, press the button and prove that it did actually produce light.

Not in the supermarkets though! That's why I said "gently" when referring to putting them into the trolley. Have you ever taken a dud light bulb back to a supermarket and tried to get a replacement or your money back?

"Oh no sir, you must have been too rough with it as you took it home. I'm sure it was perfectly okay when it left the store. Are you sure you didn't drop it?"

You never got that trouble at the old electrical shop on the corner. You remember the place don't you? It was one of those lovely little places, with the personal service, that they demolished to build Tesco's; that's long before Safeway's took over all the trade.

Anyway, where was I before I got sidetracked again? Oh yes, Mazda lamps wasn't it.

In the confident hope that exactly like it said in the ancient jingle, my Mazda lamps were going to stay brighter longer, I started installing them as other bulbs blew. By the end of a fortnight I'd installed about four of them.

Now, why is it that you can go for about six months without a light bulb blowing, then nearly every one in the place blows at the same time?

That's another mystery that I suppose I ought to digress for a few minutes to investigate.

Some people reckon that it's because you put all new bulbs in together when you move into a new place and thereafter they all last the same length of time, so all wear out together. What a load of hog-wash! I don't turn them all on and off at the same time do I?

I mean, I come in at tea time in the winter and turn the hall light on at one time and various others on and off at various other times through the evening don't I?

If I had one huge main switch by the front door which turned the whole lot on or off together, then I could understand at least a tiny bit of the logic, but I don't, so I can't, so it must be something else!

Sometimes I reckon the light bulb manufacturers slip a few bob to the electricity companies to introduce a surge or something to weaken the filaments in everyone's bulbs, just to boost sales for a week or so.

The fact remains though, that you'll go for months without a bulb blowing and then half a dozen or so will all pack in within the space of about a fortnight.

Anyway, back at the plot once more, sorry, September is obviously a month for many and various digressions.

These Mazda lamps which I bought from the fitment in Safeway's which had all the disgustingly expensive fluorescent thingys on it as well. They only lasted about six weeks! Then they all blew together again, all in one week!

So much for my Mazda lamps staying brighter longer. I can't really comment on whether they were any brighter, but they most certainly didn't last any longer. In fact, they lasted considerably shorter!

Now I'm quite prepared to be told that I just happened to pick up six out of a bad batch or something, but even that doesn't say much for Mazda quality control.

No, I have a theory on this problem actually. It's only a personal opinion, but I think I've worked out the answer.

The answer is don't buy traditional bulbs off the same supermarket fitment as the expensive long-lasting bulbs. That's because they only put the absolute worst of the traditional ones on the fitment, so they won't last very long.

This way, when your traditional bulbs keep blowing every six weeks or so, you'll get to thinking that you ought to buy the new-fangled ones off the same fitment next time, at umpteen times the price and, no doubt, umpteen times the profit for both the supermarket and the manufacturer.

Anyway, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it!

The only other possibility is that the Mazda light bulb people are now hooked up with the Mazda car firm. Perhaps I'd have got a better quality of light bulb if I'd tried to find some Skoda lamps, or even Lada?

Anyway, as the last three Mazdas blew one evening after Safeway had closed, I've tried another option this time round.

The latest batch are Spar own-label bulbs as that was all that was open at that time of night. I'll let you know in a few weeks or months how they perform, but I'm sure they can't be any worse than the Mazdas.

Assuming they do turn out better, I suppose I'll have seen the light when it comes to the purchase of such items!

Well, on that low spot for humour in this edition, I suppose it must be about time to go. The next Comment will lighten your lives at the beginning of October, so I hope you'll be joining me then.

Right, I'm off, where's me candle?

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