Christine Grahame: So-called user-friendly gadgets get better of me

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I AM, if I was not always, a technophobe. Of course it’s much more obvious these days when you need a diploma to know simply how to turn on a strange tap.

Do I press? Do I pull? Do I simply wave my hands underneath? How to flush? Push? Automatic? That can come as a bit of a surprise. How to access those paper towels?

My car speaks to me. It makes beeping noises for failure to belt up, fill the window washer, oil refill and on and on. It not only beeps, it runs a message by me on-screen just for belt and braces.

In the supermarket there is a range of queues. There is, ten items or less (should be fewer), DIY and cash only (what happened to that?). I’ve tried the DIY and, ridiculously, was chuffed when I got through it without the aid of an assistant. Of course, to achieve that I had no alcohol and no loose fruit. That’s the trick. But if I hear “unexpected item in the bagging area” once more I’ll... well... scream.

I am doing my best. There is the phone of course, with the zillions of buttons to press when all you want to do is speak to a human. There never is one which exactly matches my needs so I end up pressing any old button. Then there are the unsolicited automated phone calls which I avoid most of the time but heaven help anyone at home on a more frequent basis.

Trying to obtain information online isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I log on to the website, so far so good, I enter my details. A red X appears. I have missed an essential box. I retrace my steps. I proceed through a few more steps but I have taken so long I am told I have been “timed out”.

I cannot understand the simplest of self-assembly instructions. Forget Ikea, that’s a step too far. I once had to assemble a gadget with three simple steps and after finding the instructions eventually in English, I was still flummoxed. It would have made no difference if I had tried it in Chinese. If there’s a screw, or widget left over, so be it, it’s par for my course.

Last night it was the turn of the central heating. One night you could fry the proverbial egg on the radiators, the next, barely a hint of warmth. I produced the radiator key, kept handy for these frequent occasions. I bled a few and tepid blackened water came out. Some, of course, are beyond bleeding as the wee nut appears to have been glued down.

Finally, reckoning the loo radiator was last in line and all reason abandoned, I battered it a few times. Now whether it was this or me putting the pressure up into nigh the danger zone, I don’t know. Maybe it was both, but radiators were boiling in no time.

You see, sometimes crude brute strength is all you have left.

• Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale