Yesterday I was walking through a shopping centre near closing time I ended up revisiting a hobby I had brought to a halt about a year previous: snapping up photos of Henry the Hoovers.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a Henry Hoover is, he’s a red bucket hoover, personified by big cute eyes and a thick black smile. He also has chums who come in different colours with equally cute eyes (and sometimes eyelashes too).
The first picture of Henry I ever took was in my sister’s house. A man had come up to do maintenance on the house and as part of that he brought along his Henry. I was sitting on the arm of a black leather couch looking down at this hoover. I got a giggle as I reviewed the shot; all you could see was the bottom half of me (a skirt and leg in tights) and the tube for the hoover seemingly in between. That coupled with Henry’s expression was enough to amuse me at the age of seventeen.
From then I began taking photos of every Henry I found. The brand is pretty popular in Britain. It’s used in many office spaces by the cleaners, retail outlets and even night clubs. I have a compiled album of Henry’s listing where they are. That along with the picture makes me imagine that the same henry is going on all these adventures and it makes me smile. So there I would be, hanging around department stores near closing (and therefore cleaning) times, bending over into club cloakrooms trying to covertly capture this candid cleaner. I even remember my day being made when I was out leafleting and came across a converted Henry: the bucket was now a plant pot with a large yellow afro. My brother and sister were capturing photos for my collection. Even my boyfriend’s friends were doing it.
Then, at some point I just stopped. I had a few dodgy phones that had poor cameras and no memory. I had a few embarrassing moments where cleaners thought I was stalking them. Some of the pictures were blurry and I didn’t see the appeal any more. Every time someone had mentioned they had a Henry photo for me, I felt silly. I would pass Henry’s and feel daft but also regret at not stopping. I must have stopped looking for them.
So why did I take a photo yesterday? Well over the past year I’ve been getting to grips with this thing called not giving a damn what anyone else thinks. So some of the photos are blurry, maybe he’s just speedy that day? So I get funny looks off cleaners? An explanation goes a long way. I don’t have any memory on my phone? Ask a friend for their camera or delete a photo. If people think it’s weird? Does it really matter? I find swinging and eating meat weird but plenty of people do it because it makes them happy. Taking that photo yesterday made me feel like myself again. It’s the only person you can be. If you have a weird hobby that only a few understand, don’t worry. If you aren’t hurting anyone and it brings you joy I refer you to the idiom: each to their own!