Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Centuries Years ago, when first I was wed – my, that should be the first line of a song (sings softly to self, see * below, with notes) I started as I intended to continue. My Our life together would be ordered and comfortable and this was quite easy to start with because we didn't have many possessions and lived in Army quarters where all the basics were provided. The inventory was written in an odd, back-to-front way, thus:
Table, dining, oak, polished, officer's, one
Spoon, dessert, silver, six
Cup, tea, china, white, six
Knife, bread, one
Chair, dining, oak, polished, officer's, six
The descriptions may not be are not accurate now, I'm sure, but you might understand the general thrust. I wonder if The inventory must have changed according to rank, so officers' inventories differed from warrant officers' inventories which would be slightly different to other ranks'. What always struck me as very odd was the way the accommodation differed in size according to rank. For example, a general, whose children, if he had any, would be both older and undoubtedly attending boarding school, could have a ten-bedroomed house on a generous plot while a corporal, whose small children would be living with him, would be allocated a two or three-bedroomed house in a terrace with a small garden. Larger families might have the use of two adjoining houses which of course had two of everything – two kitchens, two sitting rooms, two fireplaces, two boilers, two bathrooms (- at a time when British people were still thankful for indoor sanitation and central heating was a thing to be dreamed of. For a short while we lived in a house like this while we waited for an 'appropriate' quarter. After a while we discovered that we were paying for electricity and gas used by our neighbours. Two houses had been opened into one, by unlocking an internal door, then separated again, but someone had forgotten to adjust the metering!)
I digress! One day I decided to 'tidy'. I came across a box full of scraps of paper. There were envelopes, old receipts, pages torn from notebooks, an outdated diary, elderly programmes of events long forgotten. They were all covered with Barry's distinctive handwriting – names, numbers, some addresses. I sorted them, keeping the bits that looked important and deciding that things written on paper napkins or blotting paper (remember blotting paper?) or the backs of ancient receipts could be disposed of. I was pleased with my efforts. A little later came the first utterance of a phrase I would come to dread, 'Have you seen . . . ?' It transpired that the box of oddments constituted Barry's sailing file and of course all those scraps were important, how could I not realise that? Why hadn't I asked? (He wasn't there!) Fortunately the 'rubbish' which was more precious than gold, judging by his reaction, had not yet been consigned to the dustbin so the task of going through it was less messy than it might otherwise have been.
This farce has been re-enacted in various guises in the ensuing forty-odd years. You'd think I'd have learnt by now but there is always a subtle difference in the replay. Now we live in a sea of paper and because the relevant piece can never rarely be found duplicates are sent for, reprinted, redownloaded (is that a plausible word?) to join an ever-growing impenetrable forest. The contagion has spread - to hats, gloves, keys, spanners, screwdrivers, glues, batteries, telephones, remote controls, instruction booklets, camera lenses, DVDs, seed packets, trowels – in fact, anything which is not nailed down is likely to be lost, mislaid, misplaced and frequently replaced. Duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates abound, never to be found, always to be sought. I used to think we had a poltergeist but no longer. Now I believe that inanimate objects grow legs and run away to hide and giggle at the chaos and confusion that proliferates.
DailyFrequentlySometimes Occasionally I rant and ravestamp my feet lose patience and decide not to clear up, not to pick up and put away. It worked in my favour once. I had allowed a stack of magazines to grow in our en suite (reading in the bathroom is a habit I deplore). For two years I steadfastly refused to move the pile until one day Barry said, 'Have you seen . . . ?' and I was able to locate whatever it was in the dusty heap. Mostly though, because I want to walk on the floor and not on a slippery path six inches above it, I do tidy up. The floors are swept or vacuumed every day even though they never reflect the effort, baths and sinks and loos are kept clean, and our clothes and the dogs' bedding are washed daily, which brings me to the title of this piece.
Sometime clothes need to be soaked to loosen particularly resistant stains, like grass, or grease. That's easily accomplished though not as readily as soaking dishes prior to washing in the dishwasher. I remember the first dishwasher we had. I was rinsing the plates and cups from a meal when Barry said, 'You don't need to do that – the dishwasher will do it.' I didn't agree but didn't argue, either. His sister-in-law, Margaret, had exactly the same response as him and when both our dishwashers needed attention because they weren't working efficiently in different parts of the country, the service engineer in both cases advised that dishes should be sluiced before being placed in the machine. It was obvious to me – after all, when washing up by hand items should be rinsed before going into the washing-up bowl. I notice now, several years on, that the dishwasher manuals recommend rinsing before washing so Barry and Margaret were obviously not alone in their innocent understanding that the dishwasher really would 'do the lot'.
My mother always soaked dishes and pans before washing up and I suppose I absorbed her habit. It is as natural to me to run water into a cup or bowl as to breathe (slight exaggeration there, maybe!) I stand alone in this. His mother never soaked anything and so Barry hasn't – until recently. Now and then I have seen him 'putting things to soak'. So if, after forty-odd years, he has learnt to do that, can I dare to hope that 'tidying up' and 'putting away' might follow? He once told me, rather defensively, that he always tidied his desk before leaving work, no matter how late it might be. Later he confessed, rather sheepishly, that 'tidying' to him meant sweeping everything into the desk drawers and locking them. The look's the thing!
Though I may appear to complain, I really would not have things any other way, for that would mean he would not be the man he is, infuriating though he sometimes can be. For example, about four and a half hours ago he disappeared into the loft to work on his model train layout 'for an hour', after which he would mow the lawn, take some exercise in the gym and walk the dogs with me. He has just reappeared. Yesterday he was backing up the computer chips from the engines – I had visions of tiny discs ½" in diameter being stacked on small thread reels! Today he is completing continuing the computerisation of the far from simple design. After that has been finished we he will design the background. When the project has been accomplished to his satisfaction it will be photographed for posterity.
*When first I was wed (GGEDC)
I lived in a shed (EFDCB)
Or that's the way it seemed then (DECCDED)