COLM O'REGAN: My printer-frustration has been replaced with a sneaking admiration

REGULAR readers know this column is frequently about nothing at all, writes Colm O’Regan.

It won’t come as a surprise when I say that the big news this week was that I dyed a pair of boots. But read me out. Like any columnist worth his salt there is a small point.

The dyed boot was caused by a printer. First let’s talk about printers. As time goes by, my printer-frustration has been replaced with a sneaking admiration for the humble A4 home printer. I just love its sheer orneriness. In a world where every iteration of technology wants to be intuitive, eager to please, like a dog, a printer doesn’t give a hoot. A printer is a cat, staring at you and smirking. I’m waiting for the movie where the evil villain is thwarted by a paper jam or a warning that he’s bought knock-off ink and HP/Epson/Fujitsu are not one iota happy about it and they’re watching the house from across the road in what looks like a bread van.

But even I was surprised by this particular printer curveball. I was carrying it to a new location and the presence of a child, a Jumperoo, a nappy-bag and a bib wedged under a door necessitated me squeezing around a door and therefore tilting the printer on its side while carrying it.

Now, I don’t blame the printer for this bit. I guess ink has to live somewhere within a printer. I suppose I thought it was ‘sealed’ in some way. In fact it appears to have been lying in a tray like water for the birds. So when I tilted the printer, I spilled black ink on my jeans, my shoes, a curtain, a child’s playmat, a chair and finally all over my own right shoe making a pure hames of it and unusable for polite society. As spillages go, it’s not exactly Exxon Valdez but still, a pain in the hoop.

When life hands you ink-stains, it’s buy or dye. I did both. I bought black dye in Hickeys. I cleaned the boots with white spirit and I dyed them. Black plus brown equals dark brown. And they look nice. Let’s not get carried away. This might be the last time I ever dye something. I am not about to launch a 450-issue Marshall Cavendish monthly magazine called Domestic God: Knacky Stuff for the Beta Male. (First episode is 50cent with free bottle of dye and each subsequent issue costs €11.)

But it felt good. It felt good not to throw something away. Not to give up on an object and just replace because that’s what we always do. After coffee cups and promotional pens from the rebranded mortgage provider, clothes are another environmental catastrophe. Fast fashion means we are killing the planet in another way while the planet is distracted dealing with ocean plastic weighing more than fish.

The Chinese are fed up with us trying send them nappies in a recyclable plastics container. Our dumps are filling up with millions of tons of tops that looked nice in the shop. The charity industry will get fed up of our clothes too eventually. We bring bags and bags of stuff. Some worn, some a mistake.

We just can’t go on buying all this shite and then throwing it away. I don’t want to hark back to the days of one pair of Dingo Jeans for mass and then animal pelts and school slacks for the rest of the week but there’s no doubt your average average person consumed a lot less clothes 20 years ago.

Even extending the life of a garment for nine months apparently reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%. (Obviously the dye eats into that but gimme a break OK.)

I haven’t dyed and gone to heaven but is a tiny mental health boost — an infusion of the hormone ‘sustainablerone’ in not throwing away. And I’ve a new coloured boot, to boot.


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