On Wednesday, NAH and I decided we needed a bit of joint R&R and so we went 'up to the smoke' (London) to visit the Ideal Home Show, which ends today. Our last visit was over twenty years ago when we had a long weekend in London to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Our souvenirs that time were a magnetic window washing kit (meant to be used for simultaneous outdoor and indoor window washing, utterly useless so thrown away) and a mincer (of the meat variety) which has languished in the back of a kitchen cupboard ever since. Surprisingly it's the show's centenary year, which seemed to be the perfect excuse for a return visit.
It's very hard to categorise the show. It's a weird mix of department store, educational/thought provoking exhibits and taking part in a really dreadful TV shopping channel - Nicer Dicer anyone? The show's centrepiece is usually some mock up houses. Latterly these are more like Portakabins than houses, but a Dream Home and Eco House were this year's offerings. Personally I was a little disappointed that the two concepts were separated as it might suggest to visitors that you can't be eco friendly and have your own dream space. However, I was heartened to see the visitors to the Eco House were taking time to read every label about the home's contents. Even stuff that I would normally turn my nose up at (e.g. recycled polysterene masquerading as wood - where was the sustainable forestry alternative?) was of good quality, but this interest was then let down by the lack of follow-up available to visitors who might want more information about how to get hold of the products.
The main centrepiece for this year's show was Century Street, an exhibition showing home interiors from 1908, 1958 and 2008. In addition there were displays from each decade in between, drawn heavily from Robert Opie's Brands Museum, which gave a real insight into how our social history has developed over a century. I found the 1958 kitchen quite unnerving as it was just like my gran's prefab house kitchen I can remember from my 60's childhood in Birmingham. It was also interesting to see how many of today's familiar brands are 80-100 years old. From the overheard comments, it was clear that this exhibit was jogging many people's memories.
There were also displays of iconic products - the kind that have really changed our lives in the past century. I was surprised to learn that the microwave was launched at the show as long ago as 1947. I don't think many of the products being demonstrated this year will make a similar exhibition in a century's time! The Innovations section was interesting - this included a competition for people (mainly design students' ideas were shortlisted from the thousands submitted) to come up with new product ideas. I was particularly amused by the hamster cage/paper shredder, where the hamster could make its own bedding on a regular basis. I thought the curtain that doubled up as an escape ladder in case of fire was a particularly strong idea.
We had a most enjoyable day - we only bought one thing, a skillet with a lid we've been hunting for for over a year - most of them don't have lids and NAH had quite an 'assertive' conversation with a salesman who told him he didn't need a lid. 'That's b******s' were NAH's final words on the matter. I was heartened to see when we did finally find the product we wanted on another stand, that the saleswoman put it in a cotton bag instead of the usual plastic fare. NAH was particularly endearing when he said (unprompted by me) 'Don't you give that to my wife!' as a woman tried to give me a Botox leaflet - bless. I've plenty more to tell you about the day including a full gardening report, but I'm saving that for posts later on in the week.