Fancy New Dryer, Mrs. Roberts, and Paul Auster Thoughts

Our old tumble dryer broke and, after being several months without one, and with rainy Winter comin’ in fast, we decided to go to the big shop and get ourselves a new one. All we wanted was a run-of-the-mill machine. Throw the clothes in, when the washing line is not an option and when clothes are needed, turn the dial, and let it do its thing.

Imagine our consternation (stop… just imagine it) when we found there weren’t any run-of-the-mill drying machines in the big shop. Nary a one. But wait, there in the back, skulking beneath a microwave over, one solitary regular tumble dryer.

A salesman approached. He was wearing a high-vis jacket. I guess it was to avoid being run over by a shopping trolley, I’m not sure. Anyway, I accosted him (which sounds far worse than it is). I buttonholed him. I cornered him. Okay, okay, I asked him a question. “Why are you wearing a high vis jacket?” I asked. No, of course I didn’t. “Where are all the tumble dryers?” I asked him.

He waved loosely (no sleeves in a high vis jacket) at a wall, along which there was an array of large grey super-computers. “There they are,” he said, with the authority of a man who knew.

These machines were a different breed. Hulking and clearly intelligent, they sat awaiting your command, not yet ready to take over the Earth.

“It’s the Global Warming,” the high vis man was busy explaining, “your old-fashioned dryer is out the window now. Too much energy used in ‘em, you see. These new ones will dry your clothes for a fraction of the price in five seconds and will earn their money back within three days of buying one.”

All right, I may be exaggerating the claims made for effect but I’m not all that far off the mark. The clear subtext was that this new installation would instantly change our lives for the better in several different ways.

We ended up buying one of these fancy-ass new dryers. There were several reasons. We needed a dryer and the last old one on the shelf suddenly looked sinister and dangerous, a threat to our very existence as a race. Also we had some vouchers to help allay the frankly outrageous cost of the device.

The delivery men came a few days later, and they were most helpful. They wouldn’t unpack the machine, they wouldn’t lift the old machine down off the washing machine (“I could injure my back with that, sir.”) (I lifted it down myself) and they wouldn’t take away the packaging either. Really helpful guys. I hope they deliver my next thing too; they were that good.

For what it’s worth, the machine is brilliant. We won’t be using it much. We favour the clothesline and running in and out to the yard to get clothes dry between the showers. But, sometimes, you’re just stuck, and you need to dry a sock or three. This machine does it, but it converts the dampness in the sock into water in a little tank that you empty out afterward. No steam, no condensation. I’m not trying to sell you one but (pulls on a high vis) it will change your life, Missus, it really will.

All of which made me think of Mrs. Roberts.

Before we got married, and for quite a while after we got married, we lived together in Mrs. Roberts’ house in Acton. It was your average two-storey terraced house, and we lived in the one-bedroom flat on the first floor and Mrs. Roberts lived in the ground floor flat. She owned the house. She was a getting-on elderly widowed lady who had come from Poland to wed her beloved Mr. Roberts who had passed away, leaving her alone in her house. So, she made the conversion, got a small kitchen in upstairs and advertised the space. Along came us and we moved in. There was no separation between the ground and first floor flats. Mrs. Roberts could have walked up the stairs to us at any time and we could have walked in on her just the same. But we never did. We imagined a separating wall and a door, and we lived accordingly. She was a lovely lady. Stern and quiet mostly but she enjoyed the company in the house, I think, and we had a lovely little corner to commence our married life in.

The reason the dryer reminded me of Mrs. Roberts is that, once, our washing machine broke irreparably in the flat and Mrs. Roberts got us a new one. This was remarkable as being practically the only time that Mrs. Roberts broke the imaginary partition wall and door that lay between our residences. On the day that the washing machine was installed, and as soon as the (wonderful) delivery men were gone, she brought up a small three-legged stool and a washing basket with some of her clothes in and she did the first wash in the machine. She set it running, then sat on the stool in front of the little round window and watched every rotation the drum took until the wash was finally finished. Trish and I still refer to this as ‘doing a Mrs. Roberts’, although we’ve never done it ourselves.

Eventually we bought our own place and we moved on and we lost touch with Mrs. Roberts. I’m sure she had lots of subsequent tenants in, and I hope they all got on as swimmingly together as we did.

One final thing for today and it’s a slightly odd thing. When we moved back here to Ireland in 1997, I almost immediately spotted a youngish lady who worked in McDonalds. She was Polish and rather stern faced and I immediately came to the whimsical conclusion that this was Mrs. Roberts, re-invented and rejuvenated and come to live in our new town with us. No logical reason for this, I just thought it, that’s all.

But it stuck.

I still see this lady around town. It’s now (counts several times on fingers) 26 years later and she’s not so young anymore. She’s still stern faced and quite self-contained and I’ve never said a single word to her in my entire life, except conceivably ‘a Big Mac please’ sometime back in the late nineties. As each year passes, she looks more and more like Mrs. Roberts used to look. I’ve never quite shaken the notion that it’s her, relocated to keep an eye on us.

It's a sort of a Paul Auster thought, I think. The kind of weird thing he might tell us about in one of his novels.

Perhaps, some day soon, I will answer a ring on the front doorbell and, opening it, I will find the new Mrs. Roberts standing there, three-legged stool in hand, come to inspect the cycle of our fancy new dryer machine.

Saturday Evening

It’s Saturday evening and I usually have this thing written and edited by now. Then I usually get up early on Sunday morning and give it a last minute tweak. Then I post it so that the handful-or-two of kind and supportive regulars can ease by and look it over through the morning.

But it’s now (checks the clock) nine sixteen in the evening and I haven’t written a goddamned thing beyond the words ‘goddamn thing.’ Even worse, I don’t really know what to write about. I have several things in mind but that’s always my worst case scenario. Have one thing or have nothing, both of these options seem to work okay for me. But don’t put alternatives in my head. I never know where to start with that stuff.

I sense this week’s post will just be one of those occasional stream of consciousness ones (I always find it hard to spell consciousness, do you?). I reckon you should bail out now and cut your losses. You’re not going to learn anything new or exciting with this week’s post. You’re not going to laugh or cry. You may fart but that’s nobody’s business but your own and will certainly be no fault of mine. You’re on your own with that.

I bought a bottle of Fever Tree Soda and Mexican Lime in Tesco early, and some lemons, and I figured I would tip that stuff and some of the Absolute Vodka that a kind soul (Steve) gave me for my birthday, into a wine glass and, you know, chuck in some ice and swirl it around and see how I might get on with that. So, yeah… this is how I’m getting on with that.

Although I couldn’t ever tell you where half the letter keys are located on my keyboard, my fingers sail over them and almost unerringly pick out the words. I don’t know how I do that, it’s one of life’s little mysteries, like bad fortune and obsolescence.

Patricia is watching the US Open Women’s Tennis Final on the telly in the front room. We added on Sky Sports to our package solely to see it and you have to give them a month’s notice to cancel it again. So I phoned today to do that, knowing that nothing in the world would possibly divert me from cancelling. But they are shut on Saturdays so that pretty much diverted me. Monday morning though… their ass will be mine.

Trish loves tennis and I like it too. I’ve been watching it most of my life and I can get pretty well involved in a match on the telly. I can’t warm to Sabalenka though, who is playing Gauff in the final. When she smiles off court, that kind of wins me over a little. She seems real then. But, on court, and I know this is awful, she reminds me of the (edited on Sunday morning). Can I say that? Can I really say that? This fever tree is nice, though.

The cat was sitting in the rectangular flower pot at the front door this morning. She fairly filled it up and overflowed out the sides. It turned out there was a tiny field mouse hiding under the pot and Puddy was carrying out a none-too-subtle stakeout on it. Trish distracted the cat with a bag of Tuna Dreamies while I lifted the pot up and encouraged one rather shellshocked rodent to take a swift hike.

After that I walked to the library and found that book by Tarantino where he talks about old movies and stuff. I’ll have me a bit of that later on.

In more general terms, I find myself generally distracted and troubled by how life has the potential to turn to complete shit from any given moment to the next. My life is lovely and has been for a long time and hopefully will be for a long time more but, fuck me, life in general really can turn on a dime when it takes a mind to. I saw that happen recently to some particularly good people who I’m very fond of and I don’t mind telling you it knocked me back a ways. Life can jump up and headbutt you when you least expect it. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. There’s no answer to it and it’s no good worrying too much over it. You’ve just got to reap the most you can from the good times and hope that your little harvest provides some kind of a cushion for when the rotten times land.

I wonder if there’s any of that fever tree left.

I hear cheers from the telly so Coco and (edited on Sunday morning) must be going fairly hard at it. I think I’ll retire up there and see how they’re getting on.

It’s Saturday evening, and the windows are open and the dishes are done and the cat is down the back garden staring at a bush and wondering where the hell that fucking mouse went. I’ll bid you a good Saturday evening, rather like the one I’m having myself. Although I guess it’s Sunday morning when you’re reading this so you’ll just have to save my good wishes up and apply them next week when they will doubtless become appropriate again.

Chocolate. I wonder if there’s any chocolate in this house. I bet there is.

I wonder where.