Domestic Bliss

Over the years I have developed complex relationships with my domestic appliances. Sad as it may sound, to me, they’re not just machines they’re domestic companions (to whom I’m largely grateful – I wouldn’t like to attempt the laundry for six people by hand). Whilst they’ve broken down over the years (who wouldn’t, given the pressure they’ve been under?), they’ve been far more faithful and reliable than E and frankly, I know who I’d choose to save in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

There are five in particular upon whom I’m particularly reliant, and, like my children, I love them to pieces but they can drive me to distraction.  They make my life easier when they are working, but they make my life hell when they are not and now that I’m working full-time (and part-time), I reply on them more than ever and, more than ever, I’m beginning to appreciate their unique personalities and character flaws.

The Washing Machine lies

Yep.  My machine is a liar of E-like proportions.  She’s only a couple of years old (I tend to blow mine up after four or five years use), but, like her predecessor she has a little digital ‘minute’ counter on the front.  She even has a ’30 minute’ programme – which I thought would be perfect for those last-minute-in-a-rush washes.

Or so you’d think.

In fact, my washing machine makes false promises.  It seems her digital counter is really an *estimate*.  I’ve stood and timed her when it says” 15 minutes” (if you think this makes me sound sad, just wait until we get to the dishwasher) and, unless every other clock in the house is operating on a different time system to my washing machine, she’s definitely always wrong.

Of course, it could be that she IS operating on a different time system and in fact that, rather like a ‘Norfolk Mile’, there is such a thing as ‘washing machine time’?

Whatever – just don’t believe her when she says she’ll be done in 20 minutes.

The Dishwasher is a jobsworth

He just is.  Despite the fact that I once apologised to him for opening him whilst he was in full flow (and got a face full of boiling water as a rebuke), which should show how much I appreciate him, he is still a terrible jobsworth.  He’s one of the new batch of dishwashers that don’t use as much water as the older ones and frankly, I can hear him rolling his dishwasher-y eyes if I so much as dare approach with an un-rinsed plate.

All it takes is one stray bit of pasta, one careless strand of grated carrot or one forgotten baked bean and he goes on strike and flashes his ‘water warning button’. This means that he’s refusing to drain the wash water because there’s something in his precious filter. He’s like the Union Leader of the kitchen – I break the carefully negotiated T&Cs of his employment, and he’s like “Right”!  Everybody out!”

Cue me dragging him out from under the working top, performing what would best be described as an enema on him (using the squeezy hose I use to empty the fish tank), tilting him forwards to get rid of the rest of the water, and washing the filter (usually to discover the most minuscule piece of food – it was once a LENTIL) in the bit where the water drains from.

I like to think that the dishwasher knows I don’t need him (I can always wash dishes by hand, after all), but I suspect he knows I would rather not do without him, which is why he makes such a fuss when his filter is violated.

The Tumble Drier complains

The Tumble Drier and I have a complex relationship.  He knows that I would rather not have him there at all and that my first love is the washing line.  But, he also knows that with school uniforms and work clothes to wash, dry, and get ready every day, that the chances are that my environmentally friendly conscience will take a bashing when it rains, when I’ve put the washing on too late the dry it outside or, frankly when I’m just too knackered to go outside to hang the washing up.

He’s a good reliable machine though and has delivered every load beautifully soft and dry, even if I overload him (I frequently overload him).  The problem is he likes me to KNOW how hard he’s working, so if I don’t empty him the minute he’s finished (like the washing machine he beeps at me for about five minutes when he’s finished), he sulks. He then turns himself on randomly every time the dry clothes inside him cool down (he has a sensor, which thinks cold clothes are wet clothes), which means that, if I forget to check him before I go to bed I’m woken by the sound of him tumbling clothes at 2 am (the utility room is below my bedroom).  It’s like he’s saying “I dried the bloody things and, guess what? Nobody cares? I’m like the little red hen, me, you’ll all wear the bloody things tomorrow, though, won’t you.  Go on, use the washing line if you dare, he’ll never get the stuff as soft as me.  You’d never treat the washing machine like this….”

The Vacuum Cleaner is a Diva

With four kids, four cats, three rabbits, two hamsters and sundry foster cats, the one machine in my house that I am utterly reliant upon is my vacuum cleaner – and she so totally knows it.

When she’s good she’s brilliant, but when she has a strop, she’s a nightmare.  I must admit, I’m a bit gung-ho with the vacuuming and I’ll try to get her to clear up anything and everything, so I guess it’s no surprise when, faced with the millionth hair-clip or hairband of the day (my daughters literally shed these like blossom) she seizes up and says “That’s enough!  That’s NOT in my contract! Didn’t you hear the politely strangled sound I was making five minutes ago, when you made me suck up the fucking cat litter?”

The vacuum cleaner seizing up creates even more work than the dishwasher going on strike.  It involves an immensely complex network of screws and clips and pipes – and, of course, it’s always the last one I check that’s blocked.  This is the point where I usually notice HOW MUCH HAIR there is on the carpet beater bit and have to cut it all out.  This takes around 30 minutes and creates a massive hair-berg, that sits resentfully on the kitchen floor, glowering at me and making me wonder if one day in the future scientists will find it and try to recreate the living beings that created it (I picture me, Oldest Daughter, Youngest Daughter, all four cats and a random mouse, once killed by the cats and long-forgotten, bewildered and blinking at each other in a gleaming laboratory).

After this is done, I usually feel so guilty about the hair and the blockages (frequently pencils, once a 15 cm ruler – they must really hurt) that, after I’ve finished vacuuming (whilst feeling like a technical genius for having fixed her and marvelling at how well she works when she has no blockages) I feel obliged to clean her filters and give her the rest of the day off.

The Oven is a Star

The true child of my heart.  I love my oven.  Day and after day, without question or complaint she troops on.  She must occasionally feel insulted by the freezer food the kids cook in her (other people cook things like souffles and racks of lamb, she mostly gets freezer food, cakes, casseroles and potatoes in various forms), but she keeps going.  She can generate entranced sniffs from the kids when she’s baking cakes and provides endless therapy for me – as the thing I usually do when stressed is cook.  She never complains about the fact I don’t clean her enough (although I do think she occasionally raises an eyebrow  when I try to turn the hob on without wiping that morning’s pancake batter away).  I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her.

I feel a bit guilty about the oven, like me she kind of gets on with it no matter what’s (sometimes literally) thrown at her.  Maybe I’ll clean her at the weekend…

As I go to bed at night, having tucked the vacuum cleaner carefully into her under-stairs home (I swear she said “who do you think I am –  Harry fucking Potter?”), turned the dishwasher on (ignoring him, when he signed resentfully at a plate with actual sauce on it), checked the tumble drier is turned off (“at last, someone’s actually noticed me”), put the washing machine on (“I’ll only be five minutes”), smiled fondly at the oven (“love you too – any chance of a clean tomorrow?”) and head to bed, I’m grateful for my domestic appliances, despite their foibles.  After all – the alternative (doing it all myself, or, God-forbid, relying on the kids to do it) just doesn’t bear thinking about.


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