June 14, 2013 6:49 pm

The case against ‘smart loos’ and remote controls

It is dumb to think complicated gadgets for basic habits could improve on simple manual labours

Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

Aren’t you surprised that most homes around the world still do not incorporate Japanese-style washlet toilets as standard fixtures? The average loo has not changed much since Victorian times. We all have smart phones; why not smart loos?

I am not at all surprised. The main problem of the Japanese lav is that its standard one-size-fits-all must have been designed by a Japanese only conscious of the petite size of the average Japanese and not the larger frames of westerners, nor surprisingly their own compatriot sumo wrestlers (I wonder what their loos look like).

Even I, not yet the size of the Queen of Tonga – whose husband, sitting adjacent in an open carriage during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation procession, was described as her “lunch” in a quip attributed to Noël Coward – find the lav too small for comfort. I always feel rather stuck after sitting down, especially on a heated seat that gives the sensation of being sealed in. Then there is the mystery of all the buttons, invariably untranslated from Japanese, and you end up pressing one, then two and probably all of them, hoping for the best, and before you can say “Bob’s your uncle”, an array of new earthly experiences ensues which never fails to contort my face. There seems nothing “smart” about them. On the contrary, it is dumb that any of us should think complicated gadgets for basic habits could improve on our simple manual labours.

. . .

I cannot see how flowers can “clash” in colour. Mother Nature does not discriminate and one of the rare joys in life is to see a riot of colour in a field of wildflowers. While I agree that any artificial flower is horrible, to me even worse is using out-of-season flowers in an arrangement. Chrysanthemums are for the autumn, phlox for summer and tulips for spring.

Why don’t you try putting together in a vase a white lily, a pink carnation, a red rose, a yellow sunflower and a purple tulip, and tell me if they do not clash. (The only acceptable “clash” in my book is the punk group The Clash, whose lead guitar is, I can boast, my friend Mick Jones.) But I agree with you about “seasonal” flowers. Tulips are now readily available throughout the year, demonstrating a sense of arrogance against nature.

Worst of all is the way the Dutch, clutching on to their provenance of Van Gogh, started dyeing the tulip into different colours. Maybe it is the flat horizons and monotonously large skies of Holland that have made them think they need to interfere with nature to make it more interesting. These Dutchmen need their minds unclogged.

. . .

How do you feel about people who go up to someone at a concert and say, “You may not remember me, but we met years ago”? As it happens, I was sitting behind you a couple of years ago at an LSO concert at the Barbican and was tempted to (re)introduce myself.

My bet is that I would not have remembered you. I would probably have said something like: “Please forgive me, but all of you westerners look alike to me”! My great friend, Algy Cluff, who can teach a thing or two about witticism and humour to the pathetic collection of modern comedians, was once stopped by a policeman for having driven on a bus lane whilst talking on his mobile phone and not wearing a safety belt. When the officer asked, rhetorically he thought, if he had any medical condition as an excuse for his triple offence, Algy replied tersely, “Yes, officer, I have got amnesia”.

. . .

Should everything nowadays be operated by remote controls? Aren’t they a modern invention to behold?

No, and I would like to kill all those people who “design” remote controls. Why do they have to make them so complicated? The worst are those touchscreen “monitors” which are so heavy and convoluted that they need to be permanently powered in a tray of charging electricity. When they are taken out, I never quite seem to find the option I want and invariably end up tapping on the screen furiously. The result is a fuzzy screen which takes ages to rectify, thereby defeating the whole purpose of the remote control.

As for wall panels in hotels, they are all designed by idiots who have no idea about human eyesight as the instructions are always too small to read. We all end up kissing these wretched panels and screwing up our eyes to find out what’s what. So unnecessary and undignified.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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