A client asked me to change a light bulb.

Now, before you get all sanctimonious (How many Dulwich housewives does it take to change a light bulb?  None.  She just calls her handyman.), that wasn’t why I was at her house.  It was just a ‘while you’re here’ moment.  And it also involved climbing a ladder.  It was one of those high-up halogen pot lights than can often confound even the handiest of homeowners.

Anyway, I told her I’d make the switch.

‘Great,’ she said.  ‘I’ll just go find the House Box.’

The House Box.  The what?  Is that a box for the house? A house in a box?   A box made out of pieces of house?  Or, like House Wine, is it a receptacle specially selected over all other products of similar providence to best represent this establishment to the greater world?

What could this mysterious vessel look like?  I imagined a fine oaken chest with elaborate, hand-crafted marquetry, protected by a grand brass padlock that can only be opened by an enchanted key made from the bones of the box owner’s ancestors.   Would it contain gold, frankincense and halogen?  And if it’s as precious as it sounds, why is it taking my Lady so long to locate it in her otherwise hyper-organised cellar?

At last she emerged from below with the cherished House Box resting atop her upraised palms as if she’d just unearthed the lost diaries of King Neferhotep.  I half-expected to see her blow centuries of dust from the cover.

It was Tupperware.  The lid didn’t close properly.  Inside were a few small light bulbs, including the one we required.  Some fuses.  Elastic bands.  Spare electrical wire.  Paper clips.  All varieties of tape.   Batteries.  Matches.  An old doorknob.  Rogue screws.  And a pencil.

The House Box.  Ta-da!

I had to admire this family’s organisational alacrity and foresight to keep all these items in one convenient, albeit hard to locate, container.  But at which point during the development of this command post of domestic essentials did it inherit the haughty name?  When did it morph from a common plastic bin into the much sought House Box?

I felt for a moment as if I were in the presence of royalty and privileged to have been allowed to reach my hand inside the treasured box in order to remove the item necessary for my assignment.  If only, I thought, I was asked to change light bulbs more often.  Just imagine the wealth of storage options I could be witness to.  I’d have access to House Boxes all over London.  Maybe I could be spokesmodel for a great advertising campaign devised to get a House Box in every home.  I’d be the face of the Box.

But it started with one.  And if it’s the one and only House Box I ever get to see, then Oh, what a lucky, lucky handyman I am.

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