I feel like I’m being taught a lesson by the technology, or rather the white goods, in my life. It feels like some sort of divine retribution for fantasising about living a more simple life and looking wistfully to the past thinking that it holds some clues for dealing with modern life.
A few months ago the washing machines shook itself to death amid a puddle of water and soaking wet clothes Not built to last?. As the dirty laundry piled up I missed this white box that magically washed our clothes. I’d completely taken it for granted. When I was a child dolly tubs and mangles were still enough of being within living memory that I do vaguely recall having a toy one and I have a fuzzy recollection of seeing a sink-top mangle at my grandparents’ house. Time-pressed these days we just have to stuff our clothes into a magic machine that does all the work of one entire wash day and several bits of machinery.
Just after Christmas the next bit of kit to fail was the dishwasher. We don’t have the biggest of kitchens and having a small white box we can stash dirty pots, off the worktop, is very useful. I spent a frustrating week trying to get someone out to fix it, but the parts needed appeared to be like hens’ teeth and the cost of getting someone out to look at it was prohibitive, so we were left with no option but to get a new one. Except that we did have an option, we could have not replaced it, it was, in reality, that we thought we couldn’t live without it. So much for our green principles – they disappeared like soap bubbles on the breeze when it came to suffering a bit of discomfort. Still, at least when the dishwasher gasped its last we had hot water to wash the pots with, which is more than we’ve got today.
Two days ago as the Beast from the East started to bite, our boiler made a noise like a tiny aircraft taking off then switched itself off, unable to be revived. No heating. No water. First world problems. It has given me an insight into how central heating changed how people must have lived within their houses though. We have been huddled in the one room we have with a wood burner in it, closed all the doors and limited our movements around the house to avoid being whacked in the face with an arctic blast. We’re getting a bit low on wood now, so I’ve been casting furtive glances at the furniture – surely four legs is extravagant for a kitchen table? We’ve also spent the last two nights all bundled in the one bed under several layers of bedding. Although that last scenario isn’t anything new! Three in a bed…
Last night hubs said he’d make me up a bath. I could see him boiling several kettles while all other pans in the house sat on the hob steaming. It didn’t quite live up to my fantasy of soaking my nearly-numb-from-the-cold feet in a lovely hot bath. It was more of a tepid puddle. Still the thought was there. What a luxury a bath must have seemed before indoor plumbing, and those poor maids-of-all-work who would have carried endless buckets of hot water to fill the bathtubs.
Still, through all these failures of technology we have survived and been resourceful. But I can’t help feeling annoyed at how dependent they make us. The lesson: be grateful for the things that sit in the background of your life quietly and efficiently making your life more comfortable, and I would guess that also includes people.