ALL WASHED UP

While my wife was away visiting her family in England, I bought her an automatic washing machine. “So what?” you say, but our path to becoming modern dobey-wallahs has been a long and wet one.

For a start, for 25 years we lived on a series of small sailboats, living four of those years on a 6.7m sloop with sitting headroom only. Laundry was done in various ways. At sea, we towed bedding behind the boat on a rope, which got the sheets super clean. The night we forgot they were there and a shark shredded them put a stop to that. In port, we washed them in a bucket (we couldn’t afford the launderette).  Our boat had no toilet and so we had two buckets, one in which we did the laundry, and one in which we did … everything else. Once, when we lost a bucket overboard, the remaining bucket became multipurpose. Something we never discussed with our guests when spreading a clean tablecloth before sitting them down to dinner.

In the West Indies, we washed our clothes in rivers and streams and beat them on rocks to get them clean. So-much-fresh-water!

Eventually I found work and rediscovered the joys of the launderette, which always seemed to have a bar nearby, or in some cases a bar attached to them.

Then the sad day arrived when we moved ashore and my wife refused outright to do the laundry in the sink or a bucket. All my protestations about how our mums used to do it – in a galvanized tub with a posser – fell on deaf ears and so I found myself in the local appliance store looking for the shortest way out.

I managed to convince my wife that the rudimentary plumbing in our rented apartment made no provisions for an expensive automatic washing machine but look, I said, there’s a lovely (cheap) twin tub. If I really struggled, I bet I could plumb that in.

She looked at me, well, actually, she looked right through me, but I had sort of committed to buying her a machine and while her fingers loving caressed the nobs and dials of a top-of-the-line Samsung automatic (almost breaking my heart), I paid the deposit on the twin tub and fled.

The machine was delivered and followed us from apartment to apartment for 20 years. I even bought a transformer in order to use it when we moved from a country that used 110 volts to one that used 220.

The only trouble we ever had with that machine was when it swallowed a pair of my underpants and I had to take it apart and rescue them from beneath the spinner drum, and the day clothes became tangled in the lid tearing it off and hurling it at my wife like a killer Frisbee.

But, oh boy, was that machine labor intensive. Fill the washer, wash. Empty the washer, refill and rinse. Put clothes in to spin and run like hell as it bounced around the room trying to kill you because the spinner was out of balance.

While my wife was in England, I sort of let the washing build up until I had no clean clothes, no clean bedding, no clean towels, in fact I was down to sleeping on the floor and wandering around naked, covering my bits with my hands when I walked past the window or someone came to the door. I could not go out, I had become prisoner to a huge pile of festering washing that I swear pulsated and moved around at night.

Eventually, shoveling it to one side and digging down, I uncovered the twin tub and began the mammoth task of fill, wash, repeat, spin, wash, rinse, repeat … ad nauseam.

The next day, dressed in clean clothes smelling of poorly rinsed laundry detergent, I purchased an automatic washing machine as a surprise for my wife.

I waited until she was home so that we could christen it together.

We loaded it up,  brought chairs and beers, pressed the button and and sat watching it go round.

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I scored so many points, I’m now thinking of buying her a television.

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Have you ever told a friend that you love them?

I grew up in a working class Yorkshire family where hugging and saying how much you love each other was more or less frowned upon. My wife’s family are worse, try to hug them and they freeze, it’s like hugging a hat stand. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just that telling you they do or giving you a hug is for daft buggers.

I have come to realize the power of the words ‘I love you’.

A while back, I underwent a medical procedure that required full anesthetic. Before I drifted off, my wife held my hand and told me she loved me, which isn’t out of the ordinary as we often say it to each other.

Then a friend leaned over and said, ‘I love you, Gary.’

I was startled and muttered clumsily ‘I love you too.’

Why startled? Because my friend is a woman.

Being told I was loved by someone other than my wife brought down a wall behind which I have hidden since childhood. By telling me she loved me, based on a deep and caring friendship and not sex or illicit romance, she set me free.

Why do we find it easier to tell our pets that we love them than our friends?  And heaven forbid that one of those friends is of the same sex.

Telling someone you love them is totally liberating, and I no longer shy away from saying the words. When I drop my friend at the airport to catch a flight, I tell her I love her. If she is having problems in her life, we tell her we love her.

Three simple words ‘I-love-you’ dripped like water into a meandering stream that gathers strength to become a river on its way to the sea.

The power is only in the words if you mean what you say. Betrayal is in the words if you don’t.