Every now and again you buy something that’s worth its weight in gold. You could, of course, say that about many utilitarian items that contribute a massive amount to your quality of life such as a car, a bike, a washing machine, a sewing machine, ride-on mower or a computer. What I’m talking about, however, is something that you buy that you think will be useful but which soon proves to be indispensable. You can no longer conceive of being without it.

Our first such item was ‘The Wheels’. This is a sturdy, two-wheeled trolley. We bought it from Deane’s in Bandon, shortly after we moved to Ireland in 1992. We quickly wondered how we’d made it this far through life without our little red trolley. Suddenly it became easy to move furniture and other large items around. In Ireland we lived first in Harry’s House, which we rented in Waterfall, then in Binn an Tí (whose exact meaning we still don’t know since we were offered translations as diverse as ‘the woman of the house’ and ‘the apex of the roof’) in Killountain, then in Shanvally (rented), then in Srihain an Sionnoch. The Wheels made each of those moves a doddle – well, apart from the packing and unpacking aspect which is, was and always shall be a complete pain.

The Wheels accompanied us to France in 2006, where they’ve really come into their own. We always seem to have something big, bulky and heavy to move from A to B, such a freezer or sofa that we’ve decided to relocate, a sack of animal feed from car to storage bin, a bag of cement, a box of floor tiles, a couple of breeze blocks, a garden bench, a quail run, and so on and so forth. We must use The Wheels at least a few times a week. They’re faded and a bit rusty now, but still going strong and proving to be a perpetual godsend.

Photo: thewheels

The other such gold item is our robo-vac. Like all normal people, we hate vacuuming in this household. It’s a noisy and hot job, and ultimately pointless since no sooner do you have the floor dust-free than a hair-shedding dog wanders past, or ash scatters from the fireplace, or the canary spits a mouthful of seed out through the cage bars, totally on purpose! Changeover Saturdays incorporate a lot of sweeping and vaccing as we clear up after two sets of anglers, and this was taking up a lot of valuable time that could have been spent scrubbing something else. And so, after much humming and hawing, we invested in a robotic vacuum cleaner.

The first one, Puppy, never worked properly as the battery wouldn’t recharge. The second one, something beginning with D, was fine for about a week and then a wheel dropped off. We almost didn’t bother continuing after two false starts, but we decided to go a little bit upmarket and bought our Eufy. We call it Puppy, though. That name stuck after the first machine.

Photo: puppyeufy

Puppy is brilliant. He chugs away determinedly and very conscientiously. In fact, he’s a bit too keen at times and will dive under the sideboard or oven when you’re not looking, sometimes getting stuck or encountering cables, which are his nemesis. He quickly shuts down in these situations and beeps mournfully, waiting for rescue. We’ve quickly learnt to be sure to keep all wires out of the way, and block off any possibly fatal nooks and crannies with a book or block of wood. Puppy once tried to hoover up Nessie’s tail. (Nessie is our very old, very hairy Border collie-German shepherd crossbreed dog.) She’d been snoozing by the fire, watching the whatever-it-was with a sleepy, half-open eye as it buzzed around the floor. When it didn’t appear to be any sort of threat, she ignored it and got on with her nap. Puppy seized the opportunity and snuck up behind up, instructed by his protocol to remove all hairs from his theatre of operations. He thus launched himself with electronic glee at her tail, but then quickly realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew. His whirling brushes were stuck fast. He immediately stopped, and called for assistance. The bemused Nessie got up, as swiftly as her stiff old legs would let her, and began to walk away with Puppy dangling behind her. Neither party suffered any lasting damage, at least not physically. We make sure to keep Nessie outside when Puppy is working, and she’s quite happy with that. Her cloudy old eyes register alarm when she hears Puppy revving up. The cats make their own way out. They’re all very wary of this strange contraption. I dare say Nessie has told them what it did to her.

Photo: Nessie

What’s really clever is that Puppy can recognise if there’s a drop and so won’t hurl himself down it. I wasn’t entirely convinced of this ability, so the first time I let him loose in the upstairs hallway, I lurked, like an anxious parent, a few steps down. Puppy buzzed up to the edge of the top stair, slowed, then turned away. I was dead impressed. It has to be sorcery, or maybe just very clever programming. Puppy hurtles across open spaces, sweeping and sucking as he goes, creeps carefully and cleaningfully along top steps and along edges of furniture, crosses an criss-crosses a room to be sure not to miss a patch, and will return himself to the recharging station if you press the right button on his remote control.

The little robovac is easy to empty and clean. It’s slightly dusty work, but then all housework is. We’ve been doing a lot of spring-cleaning this last week and Puppy has been invaluable. I do a quick bit of Puppy-proofing then set him loose to do his stuff. He’s already saved us hundreds of hours of miserable hoovering. He’s a star. Chris is a little concerned that I talk to him – him being Puppy, not Chris! – but if it works on plants, then I’m sure the positive aura of genial, one-way conversation won’t do him any harm. I’m sure it’ll make his circuitry more robust.

Long may The Wheels and Puppy last!