13th July 1985, the day of Live Aid, live, as the name suggests, on our TV sets for the whole day and night, Bob Geldof swearing on TV and Midge Ure wandering on and off set like a little boy lost in a maze.
But enough of that popular beat combo rubbish, for while the nation watched some unknown early afternoon fill-in act the newly wed wife and I wandered the empty streets of sunny Seaton Delaval and found ourselves in “The Store”, the branch of the Blyth Valley Co-op which sat on the roundabout right in the centre of the village and like all good Co-ops of the age The Store had a reminiscence of an old department store of the 1950s staffed by ladies who still thought it was 1953, Coronation year and all that.
And shortly after entering The Store we came upon “The Electrical Department”, a small corner of the long, narrow building into which all manner of colour TV sets, VHS and Betamax video players, Kenwood food mixers and Hoover vacuum cleaners were displayed randomly depending on where the cleaner had moved them that morning as she “Just did behind these shelves”.
And there, occupying its own display stand was the wonder of the age, the newly invented kitchen phenomenon, the device that would transform our whole lives and make cooking a thing of the past, a Sharp Microwave Oven, £170 inc VAT or 52 weeks at £3.50, and when they said “weeks” they really meant that they expected you to go into The Store every week for the next year and give them £3.50, no direct debits, no standing orders, no paying in advance, it was your penance to go in there every week and queue up to hand £3.50 over the counter to a lady who would mark your payment book and then wait for your return next week.
We bought one, well who wouldn’t, it was Live Aid day, a day of enlightenment, the world was going to be alright again because Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were fixing famine for good and what better way to celebrate the end of world famine than by buying a gadget that would make cooking a thing of the past ?
The first thing I learned about microwave ovens is that they weigh at least half a ton as I picked it off the counter and tried to walk more then three steps without resting, “It has to be lead lined” the helpful salesman explained, “To stop the gamma rays escaping and killing you”, and a small spark of doubt was ignited in my brain, what the hell sort of a machine had we just agreed to pay £3.50 a week for ?
We got it home and placed it carefully on the kitchen worktop having first of all reinforced said worktop with a piece of 4×2 that I’d kept in the garage for just such an incident, we plugged it in, read the instructions on how to set the clock and stood back and marveled at our new purchase, we now had a digital clock in our kitchen, how good was that, it was like The Jetsons in our own kitchen.
“How do you use it then ?” I asked the new wife and neither of us knew but apparently the word on the streets was that you needed special plates and dishes before use and as we didn’t have any then we were buggered, but we could do one thing with our new miracle of the 20th Century, we could boil a cup of water, and so we did, we sat and watched in amazement as the cup of water inside the new microwave oven turned around and around and boiled the water within.
The fact that we already had an electric kettle to do that didn’t really cross our mind, from then on our new microwave oven was used every time we needed to boil a cup of water until the new wife’s mother declared that her cup of tea tasted “funny” when it came out of the microwave and could she have hers from a kettle and teapot instead, like in the olden days