Just check on the cat...

Throughput at the Fortress laundry service has reduced considerably since Brat Minor got his washing machine. Fuel consumption in the Fortress motor pool has also gone down following the ending of the collect and delivery service.

Throughput at the Fortress laundry service has reduced considerably since Brat Minor got his washing machine. Fuel consumption in the Fortress motor pool has also gone down following the ending of the collect and delivery service.

And I've even heard Mrs H comment: “Not much in the airing cupboard, I don't think I'll do any ironing tonight.”

For decades those words have never passed her lips. In fact, I'm finding it rather weird watching television without the gentle thud and hiss of the steam iron punctuated by Mrs H's odd: “I hate your trousers! I always get a double crease in them.”

Of course, in spite of the freeing up of time we can't sit for the duration of an entire TV programme. Commercial breaks remain a godsend as does the pause button on the video. It never ceases to amaze me how much Mrs H can pack in while the ads are on; shopping lists are composed, leftovers are inserted in the freezer and I've even known a bit of swift Hoovering to be squeezed in.

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And don't think I get to watch the commercials.

“Could you just see if the cat is there? And if you're going upstairs, can you bring my other slippers down?”

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But there was a final twist in the Brat Minor laundry saga. When he moved into his previous gaff his aunt gave him a small tumble dryer. With no washing machine in his new flat he didn't need it, so it has been stored in the Fortress garage. Now he is doing his own washing again but has no linen line so, to dry his clothes, he was spreading them around the radiators. However, now the weather is warmer, he doesn't have the central heating on.

“Have you still got that tumble dryer?” he asked on one of his food raids.

“Yes,” I replied. “I'll be glad to get rid of it. We can load it in the car and take it now if you like.”

But there was a problem; Brat Minor's elbow is still painful.

“Can you manage it on your own?” he said pathetically. “With my bad arm, I can't lift anything. I can hold the doors for you,” he added brightly.

Fortunately, as it is small, the dryer is not particularly heavy but it is a bit cumbersome. The problem was getting hold of it as there is nowhere to get a good grip. Not having the longest arms in the world it was like trying to cling on to a very large piece of soap.

With a good deal of grunting and swearing I managed to lumber it into the back of the car without damaging the paintwork. I drove the short distance to the city with great care, aware that the dryer was lurking behind me like a Dalek, primed and ready to exterminate.

It was dusk when we arrived at his flat. If you were in the area at the time, I'm surprised you didn't call the police. What happened next must have looked most suspicious.

You would have seen a car glide gently to a halt and the driver kill the lights. The passenger door was flung open; someone leapt out, rushed to a nearby house and unlocked the door. A shadowy figure eased itself out of the driver's side, stretched wearily and opened the back of the car. After cursing and groaning for a few minutes, he emerged, grappling with what must have appeared to be some hooky gear. Clinging desperately to his booty he lurched off into the gloom, looking like a slightly inebriated Grouch Marx.

Luckily it was fairly quiet as I staggered to the front door of the building, miraculously avoiding stumbling over the kerb. To cross the threshold I had to go up three narrow steps with railings on one side and a wall on the other. Having deprived my knuckles of some of their skin I fell into the hall where my son was animatedly holding the door as if he was trying to demonstrate that he was taking a highly active part in the proceedings.

By now I had a face like a traffic light on stop - but my ordeal was far from over. I still had a flight of stairs with a sharp curve to negotiate.

Brat Minor hurried to the top of the stairs where he watched with grave concern as I made slow panting progress. I'm not sure whether he was more concerned I may collapse or that I might damage the dryer.

Finally I got to my destination and plugged the wretched thing in. By now I had lost the power of communication. I waved a despairing hand at Brat Minor and headed back to the car - still locked in the Groucho Marx position.

I arrived home and collapsed on the sofa. I was exhausted; I sat back and closed my eyes. Then I heard the familiar sound of the ironing board as Mrs H carried it through to the north wing. My rest period was over.

“Could you just see if the cat's there?”

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