“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.”Oscar Wilde
My parents have been married for 50 years and are getting on a bit; it doesn’t take much now to knock them down when some virus or other is going around. So when I found out Mum was laid up with the ‘flu and unable to get out of bed, I rang Dad to see how she was going.
“Doesn’t look good,” he tells me. “She’s been in bed now for two days and can’t eat or even stand to have the light on.”
A day later, however, I get a call from Mum who says she’s feeling much better. “Your Dad must have been worried though,” she says. “He came into the bedroom yesterday and asked me how the washing machine worked. And then he took notes so he wouldn’t forget.”
I talk to Dad. “You are a very lucky man,” I tell him, “ to get to your age and not know how to operate a washing machine.” He chuckles. They say it is a wise man that knows what he doesn’t know; it’s an even wiser man who knows what he doesn’t want to know.
It’s all a bit different to my life spent half the week as a single Dad, maintaining a demanding career and keeping a house together. In 10 years of married life I was gradually disabused of any blissful ignorance I’d had about the “proper way to do things.” Some lessons remain:
- Clothes pegs are only designed to hold one piece of underwear;
- Skirting boards exist and they are supposed to be cleaned; and
- Dusting is a weekly ritual and not an annual festival
And the trouble with knowledge, of course, is that it’s so damn hard to unlearn it. Anyway, I thought I now owned the sum total of information least designed to make my life happier. And then, just yesterday my ex-wife drops in. In an act that I can only describe as mean-spirited and spiteful – and provided under the benign guise of helpfulness – she explained to me how to iron my daughter’s pleated skirt.
Now, for those of you who know how to do this, I need do no more other than offer my profoundest sympathy. For those of you who do not know how to perform this feat – which remains a conspicuous omission from the Geneva Convention – I will only say that the ironing of pleated skirts is tortuous, deadly, deadly dull and, in medical circles, a strongly suspected link to Tourette’s Syndrome.
Think of watching grass grow and then imagine helping it grow by personally drawing up each blade of grass with a pair of tweezers. A veritible smorgasboard of intellectual delights compared to the bitter gruel of the pleated skirt!
They say that knowledge will set you free; but some knowledge can make you a slave. They say that knowledge is power, but then, how do you explain George Bush?