Monday, 24 June 2013

It's Not My Fault

On Abebooks recently, I bought several collections of the Home Life columns that Alice Thomas Ellis wrote for The Spectator "back in the day" (whatever the hell that means - I have absolutely no idea but feel I should make some attempt to look as if I'm "in touch" [with whatever it is I should be "in touch" with]).

I've been rationing them to myself, although really I want to read them all at once, the literary equivalent of gorging on a box of chocolates. Unfortunately, Alice Thomas Ellis is dead, so there's no more coming, which means I must eke out whatever she left behind.

Anyway, I was reading a piece this morning about her staying in a modern apartment and, while the whole thing amused me, what particularly delighted me were her comments on dishwasher men. We had a small crisis with the dishwasher just this weekend and, because I so dread the dishwasher man and his disgust at our dishwasher management - "I don't think I've ever seen a machine in such a state", he told me last time, in high dudgeon (possibly I didn't need to add that; the statement itself implied the level of his dudgeon, I suspect) - my noble spouse spent a good hour and a half of his life lying on the floor, his hand plunged in cold, beige water, fixing the thing for me.

I thought it was something about me that made the dishwasher man so unpleasant. I thought I really was a lone dishwasher abuser. Thanks to Thomas Ellis, I now realise that it's really not my problem, that my dishwasher man is just one of many - a member of an international tribe of disapproving dishwasher men.

Here is Thomas Ellis musing on the modern and on dishwasher repairmen:

"Now, to be fair, it is an extremely nice modern flat with every convenience and no draughts, but we couldn't make the hot water work because the means by which the water gets hot is highly technological and sophisticated and quite beyond the man in the street. I don't like lying on the floor in the ashes, blowing a reluctant flame in the boiler, but I can do it. What I can't do is figure out wildly complicated systems of switches and wiring that require a person with a degree in such matters - so the water stayed cold.

I didn't mind all that much, since I didn't stay too long, but it must be awkward for people who live with these wonders of modern science and are as idiotic as myself. I often think how pleasantly simple it would be to live in a tent and never have to send for the man to mend the dishwasher. For one thing he is always so cross - not only at being called out, but because he so disapproves of people who mishandle dish-washers. No RSPCA inspector faced with a battered pet could be more irate than the man who mends the dish-washer as he glares into its maw and realises that we have somehow buggered it up. I don't like washing dishes by hand either, but apart from blocking it with potato peelings there isn't a great deal you can do to damage the kitchen sink ....

... I think that even when I am very aged I will live in a house even more aged than myself with inconveniences that I can handle."

I agree with almost all of this - except the bit about the tent. I have never even for one moment thought that anything could ever be pleasant in a tent.


  1. A co-worker once remarked, after a weekend partly spent fixing a sink, that plumbers charge such high rates not because of the skill involved, but because it is so maddening to work in the postures required to reach pipes etc.

    1. And yet the plumbers I've met all seem very amiable. Electricians, on the other hand, usually seem to be very irritable - I put it down to absorbing too much of the wrong kind of energy (not that I have any idea what I mean by that)

    2. Precisely the opposite 'problem' in this household. Beloved 'rinses' everything off so clean that I can never tell when opening the dishwasher whether it's finished or ready to start.

      I've tried to say, 'rinse off' just means getting basic crud off but no, they go in spotless. So you could make tea with dishwasher water here.

      Errr... perhaps not quite.

    3. I think she's been cowed by a nasty dishwasher man, whereas I remain defiant.