Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise ... it's just that you don't look old enough.
Let me say first of all that I'm not trying to sell you anything. No double-glazing, cavity wall insulation or imitation-stone exterior wall-covering. No make-up, lemonade, encyclopedias or miracle mops and brushes.
I'm simply conducting a brief survey about household appliances, and I'd be extremely grateful if you wouldn't mind answering a few brief questions. It will only take a few moments.
(Reassuringly) Just a survey.
Thank you. Tell me, do you own more than one television?
I see. (Ticks questionnaire) Do you own a video?
Uh-huh. (Ticks) A washing machine?
(Supposedly taken aback) No?! I thought a lovely home like this would be sure to have one. Never mind. Do you have any ...
The Housewife's Prayer? Of course. I suppose if you haven't heard of it, that would explain why you haven't got one yet. (Almost aside) I thought everybody knew about it - what with it being in all the papers and on the telly.
The "Housewife's Prayer" is, in a nutshell, the latest technological breakthrough to help improve the quality of every woman's life. It helps to ease the stresses and tensions of twentieth century home management. As they say in the adverts - "You'll never have a care with the Housewife's Prayer."
What does it do? It does everything! For starters, it does the housework, makes the beds, irons shirts, scrubs the bath, scours the loo, picks the fluffy bits out of belly-buttons, collects cobwebs and eradicates dust.
The "Housewife's Prayer" ensures that you stay eternally attractive to men; keeps youthful complexions wrinkle-free; removes unsightly flab from stomach, hip and thigh; and has a built-in depillatory system that uses neither waxes, creams, tweezers or messy razor-blades.
The "Housewife's Prayer" has the capacity to create an endless variety of imaginative menus. It dices vegetables, grates cheese, slices meat and fruit, removes bacon-rind and gristly bits, mixes, blends, purees, simmers, boils and bakes. The "Housewife's Prayer" filters out E-numbers, artificial flavourings and colourants; injects additional vitamins, calcium and bran-fibre; before serving your meal on a pleasantly decorated tray complete with fresh flowers.
The "Housewife's Prayer" strips paint and wallpaper, decorates bedrooms, tidies the garden shed, mends leaky gutters and sticking garage doors. It detects clunking, thumping, pinking, hissing and whirring noises in mechanical implements; repairing them immediately with fibre-glass, plastic-filler, elastic bands and double-sided sticky-tape as appropriate. It changes plugs and fuses; re-wires broken table-lamps; mends kettles, toasters and hair-driers; sharpens knives, scissors, shears and mowers; cuts the grass regularly, removes weeds and mends fences.
The "Housewife's Prayer" reminds you when your library books need renewing, remembers to turn on your electric blanket before you go to bed and turns off the light last thing at night. It makes sure that husbands never come home drunk, that teenagers show respect, that neighbours never criticise and that the window-cleaner doesn't leave smeary bits in the corners.
The "Housewife's Prayer" ensures that you use money-off coupons before they go out of date, always knows where your house-keys are and is capable of reading those complicated dials on the gas meter.
The "Housewife's Prayer" will not only protect your children from head-lice and your dog from worms, it scares off next-door's cat and keeps at bay the ginger kids from across the road.
The "Housewife's Prayer" will select, record, review, edit, playback and watch with you a selection of your favourite TV programmes. It will walk the dog, clean out the rabbit, feed the goldfish and teach the budgie to speak politely. It listens attentively to conversation and answers intelligibly even during breakfast; it discusses politics, art, fashion and design, the price of tomatoes and what happened last night on Coronation Street, Eastenders, Dallas, Neighbours or Blankety Blank. It can explain the meaning of the Times crossword clues, predict the winning numbers of the latest Sun Bingo game and provide you with words for cheating at Scrabble.
The "Housewife's Prayer" speedily despatches Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and door-to-door salesmen, present company excepted. It detects the imminent knock of the charity-envelope collector and automatically closes the curtains and dims the lights. It picks up the potato peelings dropped by dustmen and the empty crisp packets of the kids from the local comprehensive.
It can sing, dance, juggle, unicycle, perform the triple salko and walk the high wire. It acts as a lie-detector, toe-protector, fuel-injector and emergency stand-by heart and lung machine.
What does it look like? Of course, had we been offering the "Housewife's Prayer" for sale a decade ago, it might well have occupied the best part of a three bedroomed semi; but, due to the wonders of the silicon chip, coupled with the latest optic-fibre technology and self-carbonating reprographic techniques, we have been able to condense the "Housewife's Prayer" into little more than an average sized suitcase. By chance, I happen to have one here, which you may care to examine.
(Saleman opens case and points out various features whilst continuing with his sales patter.)
One might expect such a sophisticated machine to cost a little more than an arm and a leg but, due to a preferential agreement with a reputable finance company, we are able to offer special terms to those customers who fulfil certain criteria. Especially with you in mind, the "Housewife's Prayer" need cost no more than a very reasonable down-payment supplemented by monthly payments from now until Christmas (in a slightly lower and more rapid tone) or until Doomsday, whichever takes longer.
In short, the "Housewife's Prayer" is an offer not to be missed. Not only is it guaranteed against fire, flood, hell and high-water; but also against friction-induced electrostatic interference, falling meteorites, axe-wielding madmen and the typical two-year-old. It will unquestionably improve your quality of life and will make you the envy of all your friends ... and, more especially, your enemies.
Indeed, Madam, it does sound heavenly.
(A little hesitant) No ... I'm afraid it can't. (Jocular) There are, after all, limitations to what modern technology can do.
Yes, I know it does just about everything else. It can, after all, book
you a holiday to Costa Rica, the Costa del Sol, the Costa Packet Hotel,
Skegness: it will check your plane reservations, pack your cases, keeping
the keys in a safe place, order a .... (as if interrupted) Perhaps not,
but it can climb mountains, abseil, shoot the rapids, traverse Arctic snowdrifts
.... (as if interrupted
again) At the touch of a button it readily transforms into a hang-glider, micro-light airplane, hot-air balloon or a Boeing 727 but (exasperated) no, Madam, you are right, it cannot actually get you to heaven.
You want to tell me about what? (pause) The "salesman's prayer"?
(Exhausted and bemused) Fire ahead. I'm listening.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.