Ani, exploring the kitchen in search of possibilities, let out a yelp and dived for cover, cowering under my chair.
“Is it supposed to do that?” asked my son, who had just arrived on his bike. “It’s not right… can’t be healthy….”
There are some things that haunt you; a looming, inescapable chasm of gloom before which you can do nothing. Except, perhaps, hope that the unpleasant outcome will delay itself just a little longer. I face one such certainty with a calm acceptance of its inevitability and in the knowledge that there is little point in worrying when there is no longer anything I can do to halt the downward spiral. All I can do is wait…
My washing machine is about to die.
I cannot complain… it has served valiantly over the years. It came to me some ten years ago, already second-hand. In its day it has washed everything from upholstery to boots, from duvets to dog beds; it has coped with the demands of two sons, two stepsons, a variety of their girlfriends and one of their babies… and more household linens than I care to consider. Occasionally, I even managed to squeeze in some of my own stuff. It amused my Ani when she was a pup. She would sit and watch the bubbles go round. Now, it is tired. I know the feeling.
It is too old to repair. The last time it tried to retire from active service, strange and arcane things were done to its innards… things that would make an electrician cringe and hold up crossed screwdrivers against the dark arts. It bought a little time, resurrecting it from the dead… a sort of zombie washing machine.
The drying facility died shortly thereafter. The constant presence of woolly socks drying on radiators in winter was not exactly my idea of interior decoration, but it had been misbehaving for some time, shrinking T-shirts in the heat. The dryer was no real loss. Especially after the day my partner (my now ex-partner, I hasten to add) saw fit to put the delicate chenille bedspread through a boil wash and dry. I came home from work to fabric so threadbare a spider would have rejected it as too minimalist… and a machine so totally clogged with fluff it had to be completely dismembered. But it survived, rebuilt along Frankensteinian principles.
I have never owned a brand new washing machine. My very first was an old one with the electric mangle that my mother found for me. It was a major step up… until then I had boiled tubs of water to wash by hand in the big sink, grateful for the education my great grandmother had given me with Sunlight soap, dolly tub and posser. The washing was okay, but the hand wringing was hard work. The ‘new’ electric mangle was a great machine that heated its own water…the only thing in the house that did… then squeezed it back out of the clothes through the rollers. If you were careful, you could fold stuff before squeezing and it wouldn’t need ironing…Of course, the rubber of the rollers was past its best and left perished green traces on the clothes…but it was better than washing laundry by hand!
Eventually I went upmarket and acquired my mother’s old twin tub… a horrendous invention that required the fishing out of laundry from hot water to transfer it to the spinner… which then proceeded to deform everything beyond recognition if you weren’t careful. It made it more awkward when it kept falling off the bricks. Not a standard feature, of course; they were to lift it high enough for the basin that caught the leak…
The next one was a proper machine… I bought a good, second hand front loader that actually worked. And didn’t leak. Until it did. It was an easy fix though. Too old when I had bought it to have parts available, my broom handle grew progressively shorter as bits were sawn off to do the magical and mysterious things that kept it going for years. I grew quite adept at hauling it out and tipping the thing on its side onto two tins of beans to get access…
Then this one came into my life. It did things… had programmes… even dried clothes…Until it started its stealth mission, retiring itself bit by bit as functions have given up the ghost one after the other.
These days it will wash only on one programme. That’s okay… I don’t need anything else. The drier? Well, there is fresh air… which doesn’t consume electricity with vampiric greed. But the spinner seems to want to go into orbit. Or explode. Or imitate a pneumatic drill. Mostly all at once. And it grates and clatters… to the point where Ani no longer watches the suds but hides under my chair every time I have to use it. And as my wrists can no longer take wringing… and mangles are rare, it looks as if, after forty years of laundry, I may finally find myself the owner of a brand new machine…
I wonder if I can convince it to wait until there is no ‘r’* in the month?