"How did you manage with the, erm, toaster thing?" I asked my sister, when we were at my parents' house.
She frowned. "Well, I managed to heat the bread slightly. But I can't say I managed to toast it."
I think like a lot of older people, my parents get good value and cheapness mixed up. Like, say, if there was a microwave on the shelf at a supermarket for £5 that was shit and came with a high risk of breaking down within a few months, alongside a better one that cost £10, made by a well-known brand that you might expect years of use from, then they would automatically pick the cheaper one. Because it might defy the odds and work well, for a long time - but the balance of probabilities is that it won't.
They seem to have applied the same principle to toasters. The old one was pretty crap. And now it's gone to toaster heaven, they've bought an electric... I hesitate to use the word "grill". But something masquerading as a grill.
It has no redeeming features. It is so small it can barely fit two slices of bread. But, it is also quite tall, so the element manages to be quite some distance away from the toast.
My husband put some plain white in it We managed to do some washing up, fry bacon and poach eggs, put everything else on the table and the bread remained resolutely un-toasted, a couple of degrees warmer, but not even slightly singed.
I asked my Dad about it. He said, looking rather dubious, "Well, it wasn't the best purchase I've ever made. But I thought it looked good in the shop."
Things looked up when we discovered the appliance-disguised-as-a-grill had a booster button. I always think electric things with booster buttons are going to be a bit pants by default - if they're any good, they don't need a booster or a fuel injection or whatever. But finding one meant that we might be able to finish our breakfast and move on with our lives. Excitingly, using the booster button produced toast that was distinctly brown.
Happy to be eating proper toast, we put another two slices on, and, with some anticipation - my life is quite pedestrian nowadays - we continued to eat our breakfast while we waited for the pimped up appliance-disguised-as-a-grill to crisp up our second piece of toast.
We waited, and waited. The bread remained soft, white and virginal. It didn't get remotely warm, even after several minutes. And then it turned out that the fucking grill turned off at the end of the booster period. Like we'd exhausted the amount of toast it was going to produce for that mealtime.
I'm sure the next time we're down the appliance-disguised-as-a-grill will have stopped working and my parents will have bought another piddling, inadequate machine to toast with. Or they will have realised and spent a bit more on a proper toaster that might a) work and b) last. Which would have been the most cost-efficient thing to do in the first place.
I don't really understand why they do this. But I also suspect that I will be doing exactly the same thing in forty years' time.