Well, as another week of keeping everyone else’s homes in order draws to a close, I did congratulate myself on the fact that for the first time in months, I’m actually on top of my own laundry. There are two men and three dogs in this house. I don’t know where the washing comes from. Quite how families cope is beyond me. I’ve told those who I ‘do’ for that if ever they want me to chuck a load in whilst I’m cleaning, they’ve only to say. How on earth it ever got done on a solitary Monday is beyond me.
However -and here's the confession- there are few things I find more satisfying and soothing than the sound of a washing machine. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But it’s true. I once got made redundant and the first two things I did when I got home was to make a cup of tea and put a load of washing on.
I’m at an awkward age, laundry wise. Old enough to know what a twin-tub looks like, yet thankfully too young to have ever owned one. If you believe the stories, twin-tubs were once used for anything from washing clothes to boiling rhubarb. I’m guessing -nay hoping- the latter didn’t get put through the spin-dryer compartment. Luckily for me, by the time I was ready to order my first washing machine, automatics reigned supreme. Though still on sale, twin-tubs were few and far between, and had shot up in price. The only people buying them were the elderly or those who liked to make extra work for themselves.
Of course, the washing machine I bought back then is long, long gone. In fact, I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve had since. Each one being used to within an inch of its life, and each one admitting defeat before bowing out disgracefully. I’m the first to admit I overwork my washing machines, running them at least once a day, often at nothing less than 60 degrees. The current trend for quick-washes and low-temperature cycles has yet to reach my home; I’ve seen what happens to other peoples laundry when it’s not washed ‘properly’, not to mention the muck and mould which builds up inside the washing machine. I’m not going down that route. But in doing so, I kill my washing machines. I don’t care. I buy them to use them, and use them I do.
Actually, I do care, and that’s what I don’t like about them; they have a hold on me. I need them more than they need me, and my word do they know it. At least my latest one has the good manners to flash an error code when the filter is blocked, unlike in days gone by when I’d return to a very angry looking front-loader full of soapy water and un-spun clothes, not knowing what on earth had gone wrong. I did once buy a washing machine without a drain filter. Never again. Drain filters are a God send if, like me, checking trouser pockets is alien to you. The things I find in my drain filter have to be seen to be believed. Clearing out the filter is free entertainment. Sad, but true.
As a child, we didn't have much money, but my father saw that we didn’t go without the essentials and my mother made it her business to ensure we had clean clothes. This was helped by the fact that in the very early 1980’s, my grandparents bought her a Zanussi front-loading automatic washing machine. Not many people in our street owned such a thing. I never remember her using anything else, and I never remember it being switched off either. What I do remember –vividly- was that on certain cycles it would stop dead whilst full of water, and such was the design of it, the door could be opened once the drum was stationary. They called it ‘rinse and hold’. Having flooded the kitchen on more than one occasion, I can’t tell you what my mother called it. Her language was as blue as the little light on the front which told you it was switched on.
After some twelve or fourteen years, and numerous repairs, there came a point where the Zanussi died. Thinking about it, committed suicide would be a more accurate description. I was sat there in the lounge watching Countdown. Mother had invited some of the neighbours over for tea. In the background the washing machine was quietly chugging away and all was well until it reached the spin cycle. I don’t think I’d ever heard a noise quite like it. A sort of mini-explosion, followed by a loud grating sensation which seemed to shake the whole house. Mother jumped to her feet, as did Greta Griffiths from down the road, and they both ran off into the kitchen. Old Miss Delany simply placed her cup on the saucer, closed her eyes, and crossed herself.
They found the old girl half way towards the back door, held back only by the pipes which attached it to the wall. The door was hanging off and there was huge dent in the side where the drum had tried to make its escape. So that was that, time to call it a day. Out with the old & in with the new. I swear my mother shed a tear as the delivery men carried her beloved washing machine out to the van.
And now, reaching for the start button, I confess I do hold my breath until that moment where the water begins to fill the drum and the clothes start turning. And no matter how I’m feeling, if my washing machine is on, then I know everything else will work itself out. As the saying goes, “It’ll all come out in the wash”.