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Jeremy Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist and columnist who has written about Oxford for more than 10 years. He lives in - and loves – Kidlington.

Man About County

Jeremy Smith


There is something deeply unsettling about microwaves. I have no scientific evidence to back this up of course, it’s just a prejudice. I’ve always had it, ever since they first started humming into life back in the seventies – not that it impacts on my life. True, I might not be able to heat up a paella in five minutes, but trust me, I’ll survive. And naturally, I appreciate that much of the food I order in restaurants is microwaved, and it’s not that I distrust the outcome of this electromagnetic wave (which as you know is shorter than a radio wave but longer than infrared radiation). Indeed, I’m sure it does cook to perfection, but I don’t like like things that go ‘ping!’.

Finally, my worst fears have been realised. I should have spoken up earlier (what is it they say? ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’) but I was afraid. I was concerned I’d be accused of being a Luddite, or god forbid, churlish. But finally, fear has given way to outrage and I am at last prepared to stand and be counted. But why now, you may ask? Because of office etiquette.

Yes, 21st century office etiquette clearly demonstrates that wherever there is a microwave, there must – by all the laws of physics – be mess. Horrible, greasy, sticky, brown, slopped, smeared, dried-in goo. In fact, it’s enough to put you off eating ever again, regardless of how it’s cooked. Office fridges were once the scourge of basic health and safety but they’ve been superseded by the white or silver boxes that now sit above them.

Streaked in god knows how many yesteryear lunches of reheated takeaway leftovers, they simply dare you to put all common sense aside. Blistering with myriad growths and microbiological nasties, their doors spring open with all the slick sliminess of a recent wound.

‘Are you a man or salmonella microbe?’ they tease. ‘Go on, don’t judge a gangrenous book by its furry cover. Just think how speedily it’ll heat up last night’s jalfrezi. Or yes, you could be a wimp in front of that new, shapely accounts clerk and opt for a sandwich instead.’

But surely there must be a better way of dealing with this? After all, it’s not strictly the oven’s fault. What I’m suggesting is that every time someone is interviewed for a job, they must first pass a ‘Just what do you intend to heat up in there?’ examination that contains both a written and practical evaluation. Assuming they pass muster, the new employees will then receive a certificate which, like a good reference, can then transfer when they finally choose to move on. Till then I’ll stick to my local Greggs.

- Jeremy Smith