Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Marriage and its defective glue

Mrs BB has gone to Hereford and I’ve hung out the laundry. Like washing up and packing bags at the supermarket check-out this task defines our marriage.

I’m prepared to work the clothes-line but do not care to share the task. During my professional career I needed to understand the logistics of many industrial processes and the clothes-line has much in common with them. Efficiency depends on the hanging peg bag and how it is moved. Mrs BB and I have conflicting views and we’ll leave it at that.

Washing up is more important. Mrs BB cooks and I wash up. This is obviously not a fair division of labour and to compensate I have subjected washing up to extreme analysis and am confident I have mastered this dynamic process. My sequencing techniques, insistence on a brush, pre-rinsing, hot-water management, methods of racking and parallel handling of pans combine to give the ultimate in speed and hygiene. On the rare occasions when Mrs BB washes up it is clear her mind’s on other things. I have no complaints. When she cooks she concentrates and that’s what matters.

At the supermarket check-out I have learned to take a passive role. I believe some form of logic operates but it is beyond me. I am frequently upbraided for crimes I know not what. Like Boxer in Animal Farm I lift the bags into the car silently.

B-FLAT ECHOES Buy something on line and you’re spammed for the rest of your natural. The resultant emails are often odd and poignant reminders of how irregular our lives are. Take Dawson Music, for instance. Once I downloaded the sheet music for The Lady is a Tramp from them. Now they’re having a sale. Should I take a look?


Plutarch said...

There is something rather touching about washing on a line. Sometimes I hang ours out and find the chore one of the pleasanter ones. Above all I like to see shirts and pants, sheets and pillow cases billowing out in the wind, as though inspired with a life of their own.

Oh what a lovely word to verify with: murmily!

Hattie said...

Terry hangs out the wash and does a good job of it too. We are unusual for Americans in that don't have a clothes dryer. I like your description of washing up and your rational approach to this tedious yet necessary task.

Lucy said...

I know it's none of my affair but I cannot but be concerned that you appear to be washing your smalls alongside your tea towels. Am I unusual in finding this a difficult area? (I'm may well be grossly rude and importunate in mentioning it and deserving of a Bondenesque session down the garden eating worms...)

But as your post shows, we all have our peculiarities and fussinesses. I am as yet lacking in any system regarding the peg bag (basket) which item frequently incommodes me; please share any tips regarding this. We are however very organised about packing the supermarket shopping and make a good team on this, Tom's speciality being the cold bag and arranging bought goods in trolley and car boot.

Rouchswalwe said...

How wonderful to have two working together on these tasks. The cat doesn't provide much help. So I have to take things in hand from beginning to end. I don't have a clothes dryer either, plus there is no yard for me to hang out my wash. So last week, I purchased a "Tripod Air Dryer" contraption that is foldable for easy storage in an apartment and holds up to 36 garments. I am quite pleased with this new household gadget since it means I won't have to dry my shirts on the shower stall bar anymore.

The Crow said...

My mother didn't have a dishwasher until late in her life, so I learned her handwashing routine: sudsy water as hot as one could stand it without being scalded; glasses first, then silverware (pre-rinsed), followed by (scraped) plates, bowls and cups, with (scraped and pre-rinsed) pots and pans last. Never the cast iron skillets, though; never, ever!

When we hung laundry out, the rule was that unmentionables were hung on the inner lines, out of sight. Our best clothes and linens were hung on the outer lines - the washday version of keeping up with the Joneses, I think.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: I've been travelling to and from the Hay Literary Festival over the weekend watching all this domestica accumulate, unable to get to it. This AM I stole out of the bedroom early...

Plutarch: I agree, hanging out the washing has its pleasures, but these crumble if peg bag (basket) movement rules are not strictly adhered to. One must never be tempted to peg clothing out of arm's reach of the bag (basket); it must always be slid along to maintain a useful ergonomic relationship between it and the pegger. There is also a rule about sheets, which I will allude to later.

Hattie: In saying he does a good job of hanging out, I take it you mean he adheres to rules you have set up and that you are able to watch him without wanting to interfere. That he is in fact well trained.

Lucy: These revelations! Soon I shall have withdrawn from all domestic activities, my task simply to provide the money for their mechanization. On the way to Hay yesterday I said to Mrs BB "Do you know that Lucy...?" Oh yes, she knew all about the social dangers of mixing this with that in the privacy of the washing machine but had gone ahead with these miscegenative practices anyway AND MADE ME HER UNWITTING TOOL. I pointed how how truly well-cemented marriages work (via your description of Tom's sterling work at the check-out) and it is clear our union is drifting towards the rocks. I foresee a time when the social services eventually break down our front door and find a pitifully inadequate couple, toothless, mindless, surrounded by mixed (and unwashed) laundry, unsequenced crockery, etc. Outside, the garden replete with an excess of acers has turned into jungle. A report in the Hereford Times says, "The magistrate said that instead of attending to their chores in an approved fashion this pitiable couple spent their time going to literary festivals with the inevitable result."

RW (zS): Not only will the cat continue to be no help with the chores, it will complicate them. Does the tripod dryer rotate? If so the cat will divert itself with this feature, items of clothing will fall to the floor and you - being as conscientious as you are - will be forced to rewash them. There will be no time for brewing or writing lapidary posts.

The Crow: What you describe is a Third World version of my more advanced routine. With the passage of a few more decades you'll get there. By then you will have learned more refined practices, notably the necessity of getting between the tines of parmesan-bedaubed forks with the hairs of a dishwashing brush and the separation of powers between a clean dish-cloth (for wiping pans) and a tea towel (for crockery; and thrown immediately into the clothes washer the minute it absorbs more than 2.5 cub. mm of water).

It is depressing however to learn that you, like the relentless Lucy, were aware of practising apartheid with certain items of laundry. Thus there is a transatlantic link between those who run their households properly. I stand abashed.

All: Sheets. When pegging these out I am forbidden from folding them longitudinally over the clothes line first. Mrs BB who issued this ukase said it has something to with her height (she is 11.5 in. shorter than me) but I believe there is a deeper reason which hinges on aesthetics.

Lucy said...

Noting I am not in disgrace for casting aspersions on your laundry practices, I am now quite tearful with relief and hilarity.

I think the social services will give you a chance when they learn of the exemplary nature of you washing up procedure; I thought I was a stickler for rinsing and general fastidiousness, but you put me to shame. With that level of sticklerishness there are surely no worries about mixing any of your washing, as it sounds as if everything is clean enough to conduct an in vitro fertilisation on never mind eat your dinner off before it even goes into the washing machine.

Part of my general disorderliness with regard to the peg basket (for so it is here, in plastic and matching the pegs), is that there are also a motley and somewhat mildewed collection of old wooden pegs which live permanently on the line. These primitive and unsightly specimens are the Old Pegs, and they are there for pegging out bath towels and other items (yes, further confessions, including dog bedding) which are not clean but only require airing. This probably doesn't happen chez Bonden as everything goes into the wash ere it is scarce used.

Thus Tom is not confused (or no more than usual) when he takes in the washing (the part of the job he is more likely to be involved with), between clean stuff and airing stuff, since the peg code informs him.

However, these things get in the way of the peg basket. They should have a basket of their own, or else be drastically culled.

I shall copy this comment to the clipboard as doubtless I will be rebuked by Blogger for making it too long, and will have to post it in two parts.

I regret not visiting your place of power and epiphany in Wiltshire. We were not there very long and mostly in Hampshire anyway.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: I have spent a restless night, tossing and turning, trying to assess your moral fibre following your second comment. This has to do with Mrs BB's grandmother, a fiery-tongued but ultimately wise family sage whose teachings helped Mrs BB make her way in the world. Granny had a hard life, married to a union organiser who worked in the pits in the Midlands, lost his job because of this, moved to the pits in Dover and died young from some horrible mining-related disease. Many of granny's saying have entered the family repertoire including - I am terrified to say - her judgement on women who leave pegs on the line after the laundry had been taken in. It was, she said... no, I can't write it in English, let's see what it looks like in French: le stigmate d'une souillon. I should add, very hastily, that Mrs BB disassociates herself from this phrase since she herself has occasionally left pegs on the line - though not often since the presence of granny, dead these last twenty-odd years, remains a powerful corrective on slip-sliding morals. Should you feel that the French does not provide every last nuance I am prepared to send you the English translation "under plain cover".

Lucy said...

Well, when I bought the new plastic pegs and basket, it was with the intention of turning over a new leaf in this regard, and mending my slatternly ways. However, like a smoker keeping his tobacco tin, or I'm sure you can think of other more colourful analogies for the not fully reformed, I kept the grotty old pegs on the line, where they have started to fulfil this new function.

It's true that wooden pegs in particular do become particularly repugnant.

I didn't know they had pits in Dover, though I knew they did elsewhere in Kent ( Trevor Howard's character in Brief Encounter was studying silicosis in Kent miners). I'm surprised chalk would preclude coal.

Rouchswalwe said...

I think I'm going to move again and find a place with a yard so that I can hang out my washing. The Pegs intrigue. I have old wooden clothespins that have become burnished with age. But I use them in the kitchen to keep a variety of bags and sacks closed. I wonder what Grandmama would have said. Oh, and BB, the clothes drying contraption doesn't turn, therefore the cat is uninterested. I seem to have made a wise purchase this time around.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: I'm rather sorry that leaving for SJDLB forces me to bring this one to an end. It's proof that the smaller the universe, the more comprehensively it may be contained. I'm glad too that I translated the granny's curse into French since it appears there are more options that way and you have been able to adopt the slightly less repellent variant rather than the one granny had in mind (which also begins with sl). The coal field in question is at Betteshanger which is closer to Deal than Dover; granny however lived in Dover.

RW (zS): Before you take this fateful step I do recommend you do the BSc course in peg-placing as taught at Harvard. There is evidence above, in the comments that have been exchanged, that this is a serious subject.

Avus said...

I come late to all this. Mrs Avus has been in Oz for 6 weeks visiting her sister and our daughter, so I have needed to operate the washing machine ("L" plates affixed). As regards hanging it all on the line - I find it easiest with a bag of pegs hanging down in front from my neck. Both hands are then free for the washing and the pegs are always with you.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: You have cut right to the heart of the problem. A peg container attached to you rather than the line cannot become ergonomically discombobulated. Once I too had learner plates for the washing machine but then I discovered Mrs BB seems to use only one cycle and by then I was virtually home and dry.