First of all, I should say, I’m a big fan of Nicholas Lezard. I consider his weekly column ‘Down and Out in London’, published in the hinterlands of the New Statesman, to be part of my weekly reward structure. The title of the column gives you the gist of the content, so I was a bit bemused to read recently about Marta, his cleaner. My point, in a recent letter to the magazine, was that only in London could a penniless book reviewer who lives in a hovel have a cleaner.
Well, this week he has responded to my concerns in some detail. Apparently Marta’s services (for which she is paid £12.50 per hour) come with the hovel. And in fact, as she only comes in to ‘do’ for a couple of hours a week, Mr L has had to encourage his feminist flatmate to take up some of the slack, an approach which seems to have proved to be entirely unsuccessful.
Bearing in mind my expertise I thought I might offer Mr L some advice: robots. Indeed for small fee (£12.50 per hour is a king’s ransom in Nottingham) I could even install a basic system, controlled via the Internet of Things (for more on this, see my forthcoming book, available from all good book shops).
Furthermore, in preparation for his life as a digeratus, he should perhaps consider reviewing Sherry Turkle’s latest book, Alone Together, in which the MIT professor outlines her thoughts on robotic technology and our relationship to it. As one of the book’s interviewees says: “Show me a person in my shoes who is looking for a robot, and I’ll show you someone who is looking for a person and can’t find one”.
While this might have a tinge of unrealistic expectation and an unwillingness to compromise, I think it’s much more helpful to think of it as pragmatism. And in my experience, it is always easier to get a robot to do the cleaning than a feminist.