The curse of Albert J. Parkhouse

I DON’T even like wire coat hangers.

Why, then, are they taking over my life?

I can hear them in the wardrobe at night, jingling quietly together. Like chains. I think they’re plotting.

I never buy wire coat hangers. No one does. They must be teleported into our wardrobes in the dead of night by the crazed staff in dry-cleaning shops, who are even more sick of them than we are.

And I’m not surprised. They’re not good for anything, least of all hanging coats on. Oh, they’re handy if you want to make a framework for the angel’s wings your daughter is going to wear in the annual nativity play, and they used to be okay for opening the door when you locked yourself out of the car, if you didn’t mind ripping holes in the rubber window‑surrounds, or for replacing the aerial when some hooligan rips it off, but that’s about it.

Coats disdain them. They slip off, or drag them out of shape. The hangers themselves quietly knit themselves into a kind of wire macramé when you’re not looking, and try to put your eye out when you undo them.

I do buy other kinds of coat hangers: plastic ones and — my favourites — wooden ones; but the wire ones eat them. They’re at the top of the food chain, which is why I keep my wardrobe door locked when I’m asleep.

They must be up there with ball-point pens, disposable razors and disposable nappies as the items in the world that never go away! True, they don’t have the distinctive aroma of a three-week-old and soiled disposable nappy, but that doesn’t help.

I know the solution – give them away to all those hotels who have their coat hangers sealed on to the rails so no one can steal them. I’ll bet a year’s pay that they won’t lose a single coat hanger if they have wire ones. They may not have any customers either, but that’s not my problem.

We have an American to blame for this (but not George Bush, unlike most of the other disasters). His name was Albert J. Parkhouse and he did it in 1903. You may want to commit his name to memory in case you ever come across his distant relatives and want to strangle them – with a wire coat hanger.

Apparently his co-workers were complaining about the lack of hooks to hang their coats and Albert just couldn’t ignore them. Instead he ruined my life. He patented the idea, too. It’s not known whether he profited from them. I hope not.

I hoped, too, that by looking on the internet I might find something useful I can do with them; but the only ideas I found are ones I’ve already thought of. Someone suggests using them as paper towel holder. They don’t say how you’re supposed to get the bloody roll on there, though.

I could chuck them in the wheelie bin, but it’s a curious thing about wire coat hangers –they take up more space in your wheelie bin than a mattress. Especially if you’ve been foolish enough to untwist the bits that hold it into shape.

I’ve done this so I know… tried to force a a disconnected wire coat hanger into submission by shoving it hard into the bowels of the bin –only to have it spring up and ream out my nose with the spirally bit on the end. My wife used to say that it didn’t stop at my nose, but hooked out the contents of my brain, too. But if that were true I wouldn’t be able to focus the world’s attention on the significant social problems of our time – like the curse of wire coat hangers…