Monday, 23 February 2015

Dirty Linen

I am not the most vigilant of housewives. I can't boil the kettle without setting fire to the tea towel. I didn't realise that my new dressing gown has a polar bear hood with ears until a parishioner pointed it out in Co-op and I was startled when the hard lump that had distorted the marital duvet cover all week revealed itself to be my son's missing school uniform.

However, there is one domestic chore over which I am painstaking. Laundry seems to fill otherwise stalwart souls with dread. It needn't. Over many years of domestic management I have perfected a routine that eliminates the most onerous aspects - like ironing, for instance, and the ordeal of Folding Away. For your sakes, I'm prepared to air my dirty linen in public so that you too can keep on top of the family smalls without heartache.

Usually the vicarage line basket looks like this:

Occasionally it looks like this, but that's usually when I've tipped everything out to hunt down my mobile phone:

Transferring one drum-loads worth to the washing machine once the lid no longer shuts has a reassuring visible effect and that's all you need do to keep up appearances for the next week or so. For when the wash programme has finished I leave the contents to marinade for a few days by which time the funny smell justifies another short cycle and defers the Evil Moment of Hanging It All Up.

Next comes the exciting part - sorting through the treasures that miraculously emerge from a hot wash. A bit like a high street ATM is our Bosch - you insert a sheaf of Y-fronts and out comes hard cash (and innumerable bonus extras). Money laundering is big business in the vicarage - but I have to say that Cadbury's Flakes taste better unwashed.

The Evil Moment of Hanging It All Up is made more evil by the blight of socks. It's a curious fact that however many washes you do none of them ever matches up, even when they're all black or striped.

Embrace this as a good thing, though. It means you can put the singletons into a transit camp under the bed which saves you sorting them into their drawers. When the Vicar finally notices that he's run out of black socks he just buys new ones. 

Once you have ornamented your airer with underwear, you can take it easy for a couple of days until you find that the lid of the linen basket won't shut again. Then, of course, you have to clear the rack to make way for the next tranche. To do this, fling the relevant items outside the relevant bedroom door and leave them there. This is not indolence, this is teaching your children independence. 

Within the week they will have tired of stepping over them to get to their iPods and will gather them up and thrust them back in the linen basket to save themselves the trouble of putting them away. Whereupon you repeat the drum-filling, marinading, rewashing, hanging process and thereby also avoid having to wrestle clothes hangers and half-hinged wardrobe doors. 

I can't lie. There will come a point when the landing is inaccessible because of the linen mounds, the laws of gravity forbid any additions to the linen basket, the drying rack is still sagging with last month's washing and the family has run out of underpants. At this stage you do have to bite the bullet and find homes for the backlog. This process need never, though, under any circumstance involve an ironing board. Sheets slept in for a night will only crease up and wrinkles miraculously smooth from clothing after a few hours of wearing. 

Nor need you bother about folding. They'll inevitably be hurled to the floor when family members are seeking their missing chewing gum/haemorrhoid cream/dog collars. Simply employ your child's recorder to batten them down so that the drawer/door shuts and, while your neighbours are toiling over their ironing piles, go get a life in front of The Home Show

The vicarage linen cupboard

Have you any labour-saving tips to share? Or any spare black socks in search of a life partner? 

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Second Flowering

Years I have waited for my Second Flowering to commence. Once I had shed the scent of Napisan, I thought, I would rise resplendent from the mire of motherhood and bedazzle Waitrose check-outs with new radiance. An epilator and a selection of brand new vests have been on standby for the Moment when it happens. The trouble is, it shows no sign of happening.

And so I decide to hurry things along a little. I invite a friend round with a mascara stick. She shows me what to do with lash clamps and gel pens. She turns my eyelids blue and silver and fills in crevices with pink mortar.

Over the ensuing days, with lesser skill, I replicate her efforts. And, as I face the world with Cleopatra eyes, things do indeed begin to happen.

The churchwarden comes hurrying up to me as I jive round my brolly at her 50th wedding anniversary bash. 'That man over there,' she giggles, 'has just pointed you out and said, 'she's going to be a beauty when she grows up'!' I peer at an elderly gentleman hunched myopically in a distant corner of the church. It must be my mascara, I think. 'It's because you're dancing like a six-year-old,' explains my daughter.

I'm chatting to a fellow mother under a lamp post outside the scout hall. A car crawls along the kerb and comes to a halt alongside us. Two youths peer out of the passenger window. 'We're being picked up!' marvels my companion. It must be my mascara, I think. Then the car slides into reverse and the youths lean out to greet a blonde who's been awaiting them in the shadows further up.

I'm discussing bathroom cleaning products and Syria with the man at the Boots check-out.  'You will forever linger in my mind!' he grins as he hands me a voucher for anti-ageing cream. It must be my mascara, I think. 'It's because you went on so much about your black mould,' hisses my daughter.

I am becoming disillusioned with Second Flowerings. I've spent £15 on beauty aids, but no heads turn in the Communion queue and the Vicar is oblivious to my coal-black lashes. Even the young man who pursues me through Co-op turns out to be returning a tin of Vaseline I've dropped.

Then, as I serve teas to school children in the church hall, a Year 6 girl peers at me closely. 'You're wearing mascara!' she remarks. I am jubilant. 'You're the first person who's noticed,' I say. She looks at me pityingly. 'Anyone would notice,' she replies. 'It's running all down your face.'

Has your Second Flowering begun yet?