I’m now in Canterbury, settled by the Celts, captured by the Romans, captured again by William the Conqueror, home of the main Church of England Cathedral, site of the murder of Thomas Becket, journey’s goal for the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. So much history!
But instead of sightseeing, I am recovering from a bad cold. My main purchases have been orange juice, “chesty” cough syrup, Kleenex, and soup. I have to admit to loving the English soup selection – many exotics! Even the chicken noodle has corn, red chili puree and turmeric, not in my Grandma’s or Campbell’s versions.
Despite the delights of napping and soup meals, I face an onerous task that can no longer be put off. Laundry. I am down to my last pair of underpants.
The source of my consternation has been my dubious track record with English appliances. All of the places I’ve stayed so far on this trip have had dishwashers, but frankly, it’s just easier to do dishes by hand than to try to understand the machines. What do all those symbols mean?
However, I must use the dreaded washing machines. In Cowes and Brighton, they were fairly straightforward, meaning, they only washed, rinsed, and spun cloths. In Cowes there was a timer on it that we didn’t understand, and my sister and I ran out to the washer shed for a couple of hours before the dang thing even started. Still, in the end, it washed the cloths.
But the washer here in the Canterbury flat is one of those washer-dryer models. I’ve had problems with them before, when my daughters were along to help decipher the mysteries of the machine. In Canterbury, I am alone.
I’ve been looking at the front-loading washer-dryer in the kitchen for two days. I even located and read the machine directions, not that everything is perfectly clear. So I gathered my clothes, pushed them into the machine, and crouched down to read buttons. Hmm, the fabric selection guide is pretty expansive.
I picked 4, colourfast nylon and polyester, even though I don’t have any nylon or polyester, because it seemed gentler than some of the other choices and I didn’t want to ruin my bras. Then I picked 50 ̊ because that went with 4. Then I put the dryer timing on zero hoping I could avoid drying altogether.
At 8 am I gave the door a final secure shut, and the light went on. The light is your friend. It tells you that you are doing the right thing. Maybe. I sat down with my coffee and spent a couple hours writing. I could hear the washer making noise, but otherwise paid it no mind. Perhaps that was a mistake.
Noon: I wander to the kitchen to make lunch. The light is still on. It looks like the clothes are already fluffy, like they are in the process of drying (dang), but the drum isn’t moving. What I DO notice is that the floor in front of the washer is ice cold. It’s not wet, just cold. Double dang. I didn’t want my clothes dried, but if that’s what the machine is doing, why is it taking so long?
2:30 pm: the floor is still cold. The light is still on. Clothes look oddly suspended. Nothing else seems to be happening. If the machine IS drying my clothes, it’s frying the heck out of my bras. I gently tug on the door to see if it will open so I can remove them. Nope. I’m annoyed and decide to take a nap. I really can’t go anywhere while the machine is on.
3:30 pm: I wake up to find the light still on and the floor still cold. I am afraid my bras are totally fried, so this time, I give the door a good yank. Mistake. It flies open and cold water pours out. (But it looked dry!!) As I scramble to push the door shut against the rush of water, I see pieces of my clothing stuck between the door and the frame. I grab the dish pan and push it under the door which does capture part of the torrent. Meanwhile SOMETHING finally starts happening. The machine goes on, the drum rotates and water is still coming out of the opening, though at a slower rate. I keep pushing on the door, and see the pieces of my stuck clothing slowly get sucked into the machine as they twist around with the rotation of the drum. I finally have a seal, and I can take the pressure off the door.
There’s about a quarter inch of standing water everywhere, the kitchen rug is squishy, and water is starting to leak onto the living room rug. Time for a good laugh, but my sides hurt so much from coughing the last couple days that it literally hurts to laugh. After sopping it all up, I return to the living room and sit listening to the sound of the now working (?) washer.
At 3:48 the machine begins to whine, then turns to a death-rattle. I’m afraid to look. Four minutes later, all noises cease. I check the status. The machine has definitely stopped moving, but the light is still on, staring at me like an orange dragon eye. I decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and walk back into the living room.
4:30: I am getting impatient. I’ve now been at this for 8.5 hours. I check again. I can see the clothes sitting wet on the bottom of the drum but the light is still on. I slowly open the door. Nothing untoward happens. Everything is still damp, but not dripping.
I take this as a victory, remove them, and put them on the drying rack in the living room. The good news is that my bras have not been fried. The bad news is that I do not know how to wash them again in a couple days without repeating what happened today.
I could try reading the manual again. But first, I’ll need more soup.
For other essays about this trip to England see:
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