A black belt in washing up


Yesterday Lorraine made a good point about what women really want – “Mostly, she wants you to put the toilet lid down and to wash the dishes.”

And as she said that, women all round the world were punching the air and shouting “you tell him, sister” and the menfolk had gone quiet and were finding the ends of their shoes appealing.  Guilty as charged. All of us.

Don’t worry fellas. I think I have discovered something that will change your life forever. I think I have just solved housework.

You see, the most special woman in the whole wide world, the Mem, the wife, Mrs Once, mother of the Best Boy In The World, my best friend … she’s staying with her mother at the moment.

No, no, it’s not like that. “Staying with her mother” is usually a euphemism for that special time in a married couple’s life when they give money to the legal profession. But this time, it’s medical not matrimonial. Her mother is unwell and the Mem is looking after her instead of looking after her two boys.

Which means that yours truly has had to take a crash course in shopping, washing, and doing all that domestic stuff. A whole summer of remembering what it’s like to be a bachelor again.

It turns out that it’s not so hard. You just need to learn a few shortcuts.

Washing clothes? The washing machine has more buttons than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. But that’s okay. Just like the Enterprise, most of the buttons don’t do anything useful. Just hit synthetics at 30 degrees. It turns out that anything that blokes wear can be washed on synthetics at 30 degrees. I know it sounds like a futuristic robot pop group, but we don’t need to know what it really means.

All the other buttons are for the delicate lacy stuff that laydeez wear, and you won’t be washing any of that. Please tell me that you won’t be washing any of that.

Ironing? Easy peasy. The thing that no-one told you was that nearly all clothes are made up of lots of flat bits of material stitched together. Isolate each flat bit on an ironing board. Iron until most of the creases are gone.

Don’t know what setting to use on the iron? That’s easy too. It’s the middle one. Any lower and you won’t get it flat. Any higher and you’ll start to leave lovely brown scorch marks over everything.

If in doubt, every domestic appliance functions perfectly well on the middle setting.

By the way, if you haven’t got time to do the ironing, put the clothes on anyway and go for a drive with the car heater turned up. Or if you want to get technical, with the climate control set at 21 degrees.  As usual, the middle setting

Naturally, we only iron the stuff that shows. Shirts and jeans and stuff. Blokes don’t iron underwear, sheets, slobwear or towels. Actually, I don’t think anyone irons towels. Except maybe the Queen.

Next comes shopping. And here I’ve got some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that you can’t get away with your normal shopping list. Beers, pringles and a copy of Top Gear magazine do not a hungry man feed. Nope, the bad news is that we have to buy food.

Now for some good news. You remember that rule about eating five portions of fruit and veg a day?  This is really easy. Grapes are fruit, so wine is okay. Hops and barley are vegetables and that lets beer into the healthy club. Chocolate is made from a bean and beans are veggies. And by an amazing coincidence, just about every animal we eat happens to be a vegetarian. So it’s mostly made of veg. Potatoes are quintessentially veggie too.

So that’s a diet of wine, beer, chocolate, steak and chips. And all perfectly good for us. Maybe the only things that are bad for us are vitamin pills and pot snacks.

There is one secret to bloke cooking that you absolutely need to know. With a bit of planning and forethought you can cut down on the washing up. Never ever buy anything that needs the involvement of any kind of pan. The oven and the microwave are your friends.

You are looking for meals that get cooked in their own containers and then transfer straight to a plate. Or, better still, can be eaten directly from the container without the plate. And if you can manage without cutlery, that’s one less thing to worry about too.

It’s at this point that you move the recycling bin from the kitchen to the living room. That’s where you are going to be eating your meals anyway, on a tray in front of the Walking Dead, so you might as well have the bin close at hand. Cans of beer go straight in.

For amusement value, you might want to situate the bin a few feet away from your favourite chair or couch so you can practise your three point shots. How good is that? Labour saving and home sports all in one.

Naturally the recycling bin will start to get a bit smelly after a while. That’s okay. It’s nature’s way of telling you it’s time to empty it.

Washing up is really easy when you get into the right mind-set. You have one plate, a knife, a fork, a metal tray for cooking pies and oven chips, and one of those slotted shovel-like guys for getting stuff out of the oven. You don’t know where all of these things live, but that’s not an issue. You see, you never put them away. You are either using them, parking them or washing them.

Why put them away? You are only going to get them out again.

For the actual washing up, you’re going to need an i-pad or similar device. Position it near the sink where you can watch one of your favourite videos from yoofchoob. The world’s best Russian car crashes. Power ballads of the seventies. The top 100 movie insults. Whatever floats your boat.

Now watch the video while washing the dishes in enough soapy water to sink the Titanic. The time will fly by. Don’t worry if you miss the odd bit of dried-on food. If it was good enough to eat first time round…

The jury is out on whether to use a dishwasher or not. On the plus side, it’s a gadget so that has to be a good thing. Just remember to use the obligatory middle setting. On the other hand, you won’t know how to pack and stack it properly. This will mean that everything in the dishwasher will come booby trapped with hidden pockets of water to splash all over you when you take it out.

There is one final tip. You need to find out the exact time when your beloved is due to return. Get her to phone you when she sets off. Send you regular texts. That sort of thing. She will think that you are anxious about her safe arrival. Aww, isn’t he thoughtful?

But what you are really going to do is to set an alarm for thirty minutes before she returns. As soon as that alarm goes, you need to go into super-efficient SAS mode:

  • Loos brushed, wiped and the seat down.
  • Bins emptied and the recycling bin returned to the kitchen.
  • Pillows and cushions plumped and neatly arranged.
  • Pot of fresh coffee brewing
  • Part-baked bread in the oven
  • Those DVDs back on the top shelf.
  • A copy of Ulysses artfully positioned on the coffee table
  • Quick squirt of air freshener in every room
  • Remember just in time to water the plants and hope that they stop drooping soon.

And for the coup de grace you need to do all this with about five minutes left to go. Now you pour a big bowl of washing up water and start hand-washing whatever you’ve got left lying around. Even in the unlikely scenario that it’s still clean. Wash it anyway.

The point is that you are up to your elbows in washing up as she arrives. It will look as if you’ve been like that for ages. Kisses, hugs, I’ve missed you.

See? It’s easy when you know the shortcuts. Now all we need is to learn how to do it when she’s at home too.


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