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Ode to the plastic garden chair

There have been many contenders for the most useful invention of all time: mobile phones, the internet, sliced bread. In many people’s eyes, here in Africa, the mobile phone has the top spot, given the way it has revolutionised communication. Mobile phones have allowed people to transfer money by phone and traders to check market prices before making gruelling two or three day (or even longer) journeys with their goods.

However (you knew this was coming, right?), I think what I have found time and time again (and in different places), is that one of the most (now) ubiquitous and useful things to have come to Africa is… the plastic garden chair! All hail the man who invented injection moulding!

I know, it sounds crazy — how could such a humble item possibly beat the super technology of the mobile phone, or satellite internet? But hear me out.

In the most remote places, when you’ve walked for half a day or more to get there from the nearest road – (OK, admittedly, I’ve never actually done that, but I know people who have), image your relief when they bring out plastic garden chairs for you to sit on!

From the comfort of your high backed ergonomically designed office chair (with arms and reclinability) you might think that the humble plastic garden chair isn’t so comfortable. In fact, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’ve gone a little mad.

But consider the alternatives:

  • sitting on the ground. In a country with fire ants, scorpions, snakes and poisonous spiders, this isn’t recommended. Also, your trousers get dirty.
  • perching on a log. See above re: scorpions etc.
  • squatting on one’s heels, often for hours on end. This age-old alternative might be fine if you’ve done it from birth, but gets my knees cracking after about 10 minutes.

Hence this ode to the plastic garden chair. You sit in the shade of a tree, and you discuss the matter at hand — at length — entirely scorpion and snake free. You get another plastic chair, you put your feet up on it and you go to sleep, although not after dark because you’ll be eaten by mosquitos. In the heat of the afternoon, when it’s too hot in the bedroom, the only thing better would be a hammock — but for those you need 2 trees and the other tree here is about half a mile away…

All hail the plastic garden chair, the bringer of small comforts to people in unlikely places!

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