Going for the jugular

CONSIDER the jug. A handy vessel for carrying anything more than a mugful of coffee, or of tea, or more than a stubby of beer. Of anything really, so long as it pours. They’re not much use with bricks.

But there’s the rub – so long as it pours. A jug is meant for pouring. It’s designed deliberately to enable the user to pour stuff. That’s why it has a little lip, fashioned especially for the purpose.

So why does it never work? I have jugs big enough to hold a barrel of beer and small enough to hold a crocodile’s tears; I have fat jugs and thin jugs; jugs with a lip so small they’re really just a cup with a blemish on the rim, and jugs with lips like the arse of an elephant – and not one of them pours.

I take that back. They do pour: over the table, over my plate (when I’m aiming for my cup), over my cup (when I’m aiming for my plate). The best of them starts out fine, but just as I stop pouring, imagining that I’ve finally got the hang of it, it dribbles a pool of custard down the outside of the jug and across the tablecloth.

My nemesis is the milk jug. I can’t even detect the dribble until it’s back in the fridge. When I try to take it out again it’s glued to the shelf by a fine film of dribbled milk; wrenching it free jolts the undribbled milk into the celery, yesterday’s leftover macaroni cheese, several slices of ham, and a bowl of prunes (don’t ask about the prunes).

Who designed these things? Was it Mr Jug? With a name like that he’d be Swedish surely, and they have a good reputation for designing things; look at Ikea. But if Mr Jug were still alive he’d have been sued for fraud. He must be dead by now; of shame, possibly, or perhaps slain by Mrs Jug who, surely, would have been the guinea pig upon whom he tested all the failed prototypes.

I have a long and bitter experience with jugs. Here’s a tip: when you buy one, don’t ask if it pours. The answer is always yes; they’ll even show you, and it will. I’ve never known a jug that wouldn’t pour. It’s when you stop pouring and stand the bloody thing upright that the trouble starts. Ask them instead to stop pouring and return the jug to its upright position – slowly. It will dribble; it’s a natural law, like only one sock ever coming out of the washing machine. You’ll probably buy it anyway; because you like the design, or because it’s painted with flowers; or because maybe – just maybe – this one will be different. It won’t be; trust me on this.

And dribbling is merely the tip of the ice cube: how are you supposed to clean jugs! The washing-up brush is always too big to fit inside; the fingers too short to reach the bottom. Imagine what must be growing in the distant recesses at the bottom of a jug. Which explains why so many of them end up as vases.

Vases are the proof that jugs don’t work; not as jugs anyway. Go to your cupboards; count the jugs. Most households can muster a dozen or so – but only one or two ever hold liquid; the rest hold flowers. Yes, of course, they hold water, for the flowers; but that doesn’t need pouring until you throw the flowers out. By then the water stinks of decaying plant stems and no matter how fast you pour it out you risk dying in a cloud of noxious gasses. By then dribble is the least of your problems, unless it’s you who’s doing the dribbling, of course.

But don’t get me started on vases…