Followers of this column will know that nothing annoys me more than excessive verbiage on notices, instructions and packaging.

They will recall how, on getting hot under the collar about an overhead sign advising one to  use the handrail provided (as opposed to the one not provided) at Temple Meads station , I then fell down the stairs.

Last week I bought a bar of soap. The label suggested one should apply it to wet skin, lather then rinse. I looked in vain for guidance on the subject of grandmothers and eggs, the sucking thereof. But I did find ‘Warning: Slippery when wet!’ Phew, was I glad to see that timely advice. Now I know not to grip the soap too tightly while lathering, causing it to shoot out of my hand onto my new bathroom tiles and thereby create a slip hazard all of my own!

How different my life would have been if this advice had been proffered in my formative years. How many bars of wonderful pink Camay could I have saved and how many embarrassing visits to A&E would have been avoided?

And so to my other new bathroom accessory: a shiny set of scales. Complete with instructions in at least fifteen languages explaining how to get on the thing. One foot at a time apparently. With a diagram too, just in case the lingo of your obscure Brazilian rain forest tribe isn’t featured. I don’t know about you, but I usually mount my scales both feet at a time, after taking a run-up akin to an Olympic long jump champion. Well, I shan’t be doing that again, not now I know the proper technique!

Related closely to the scales purchase is my current weight loss scheme. A month’s supply of calorie controlled ready meals arrived and I swear the box was so heavy I lost a stone carrying the thing up to my flat. The accompanying instructions were pretty minimal for a change. Number of calories and length of time required in the microwave was all.

Deciding to consume the most boring dishes first, thus saving the treats (chocolate milkshake meal replacement, yay!), I went for the just-add-hot-water dried couscous mini-pot.  Instructions on the lid simply said ‘PULL’. So I did. It might have been a mini-pot but it contained an unfeasible amount of gritty cereal. Dried couscous everywhere, including in my shoes, in the cutlery drawer, and in some personal places I discovered later and not to be discussed in a family newspaper.

The online receipt had a ‘How did we do?’ box so I told. Give them their due, they actually sent me a new mini-pot by same day courier. One little pot in bubble wrap on the back of a motorbike!

Same curt instructions.  For once there should have been a health and safety alert on the lid:

‘Warning: this product can get in your nooks and crannies if opened incorrectly’

First published 2019 as Ralph Oswick’s Column in Bath Chronicle

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