HOW many journalists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two — and two lunch breaks. And a man at a hardware store.

A bit like the way video recorders started out being quite intuitive and then became progressively more complicated and eventually had one last flourish of inscrutability before leaving this mortal coil for the great teak TV cabinet in the sky, light bulbs have gone from the simple concept of twist, remove, bin, replace to an altogether more complex incarnation.

As well as the traditional equipment of a pair of hands and possibly a step ladder or chair, the equipment now needed to change a light bulb includes a Phillips screwdriver, a pair of rubber gloves, a tissue and a kitchen knife. Oh and a teaspoon, for scooping out a dead fly from the well of the lamp — ‘it might be a fire hazard!’ declared my fellow journalist.

For this, dear reader, was no ordinary light bulb — this was a halogen R7s 118mm linear bulb.

And I have to say, it does its job beautifully once installed in a lamp.

But cut loose, it’s a little demon. The first flaw is that you cannot, nay must not, touch it. Them there hands which have been trusted for many a year to change a light bulb are now your enemy.

One whiff of human skin and the delicate little halogen fella goes ‘pouf!’ and refuses to work.

Of course, you won’t be aware of this until you’ve unplugged the lamp, unscrewed the clamps, removed the old bulb, wrestled the new bulb out of its packaging and put it in the new lamp, replaced the clamps, plugged the lamp back in and watched as precisely nothing happens.

For unlike the good old bulbs, this little blighter doesn’t let you know it’s broken by tinkling when it’s shaken.

May I suggest to halogen bulb designers of the future that they design and install a tinkle into every bulb which sounds when it’s bust so you don’t waste your time with it.

“Must be a duff one,” said my fellow journalist. “Try the other one.”

So we unplugged the lamp, unscrewed the clamps, removed the dead light bulb, carefully picked up the other light bulb in a rubber-gloved hand, squeezed it into place, screwed the clamps back on, plugged the lamp back in and watched as precisely nothing happened.

“Maybe they’ve gone off,” I said. “I’ve had them in my Man Drawer for a couple of years now.”

Not to be beaten by our downright incompetence, my fellow journalist insisted we trek over to Old Town Hardware in Wood Street, the Mecca of domestic usefulness.

Having bought yet more bulbs, I shamelessly took advantage of the very friendly shopkeeper’s wisdom and he told me no, bulbs don’t go off but if you so much as brush one with your skin, they die instantly. He also assured me there’s no such thing as putting them in the wrong way round.

It was his suggestion that we wrap the bulb in tissue paper in order to handle it — and a damn fine suggestion it was too.

But by now, our lunch break was over and so we synchronised our watches and agreed to postpone Operation Light bulb until 1300 hours the next day.

Once more, we unplugged, unscrewed and unwrapped fresh bulbs. And, a bit of loo roll being all that lay between me and interminable darkness, we inserted the new bulb, re-screwed and re-plugged and — voila! Let there be light.

Of course, I now have a spare light bulb in an open package which I have to avoid touching, even by accident, for the next two years until I need to replace the bulb again.

And you can bet, when that day comes, my spare bulb will be revealed to be useless.

“It’s a bit of a design flaw, that,” I said to my fellow journalist. “Putting something that must not be touched in a packet which once open, reveals both bulbs. So each time you need one light bulb, you will buy two and have to throw one away. Which makes the whole thing twice as expensive.”

“They probably did it on purpose to double their profits,” observed my fellow journalist.

Now that, my friends, is a light bulb moment.

Park your fury — something’s got to be done

SO traffic wardens have stepped it up a gear and will now have a car with a mobile camera to help them catch pesky drivers who park where they shouldn’t.

And good on them — nobody likes to see a car parked dangerously on the corner and it’s positively infuriating to return home only to find the last space on your street has been half-inched by someone without a permit.

The whole issue of residents’ parking is, of course, a bit of a head-scratcher though.

Many of Swindon’s streets were built before the advent of cars and therefore don’t lend themselves to easy parking.

And even when cars did make an appearance, who knew that in a matter of decades we’d go from many families not having one at all to plenty of families having three or four?

It’s tricky to know what to do about it — after all, the council can’t expand the streets to make room for the growing number of cars. And they can’t ban people from owning them, or insist they leave them at an out-of-town location.

Clamping down on those who abuse the system, however, has got to be a decent start.