Thursday, August 06, 2009



You either love it or loath it. For many housewives ironing is something that has to be done, and it is therefore seen as a drudge - a part of the necessary housework. Hubby could not possibly go to work in a crumpled shirt. Turning up at the office wearing a pair of trousers that look as though they have been trampled on by a herd of stampeding horses is just not on, but nice creases that look like sharp steel blades presents the right image for the man who wants to get ahead, one who has get-up-and-go. All this is far from the mark today. Hubby dresses down by turning up for work in a shabby pair of jeans while wearing an open neck shirt. He has designer’s stubble and his hair is spiked with gel. The truth is that if there is ironing to do, the man had better do his own, or else it doesn’t get done, and in some households, unless he does the lot, even the kiddies’, he’ll be lucky to have a hot meal ready for him when he arrives home, shattered with the stress endured because it’s been a tough day.
If you are a man who lives in Australia, Italy or Iran, you probably don’t know what an iron is, but if you live in the UK, you most certainly do. When I was a boy back in 1944 my mother did the ironing. It was the job of a married woman, known as a housewife. Her ‘job’ was to do the housework. I can remember my Mum heating a solid flatiron on the gas stove before it could be used to set creases into starched linen. Round about that time the first electric irons could be found in the shops. They were pretty primitive things, having only a simple thermostatic control. Unlike modern irons they did not have steam and spray mechanisms, neither did they have anti-friction surfaces, or with more expensive versions, separate steam generators. Ironing boards have remained much the same, except it possible to buy suction boards that hold the items to be ironed to the board while they are being ironed. To me, that seems an unnecessary complication - something that can go wrong, especially as some washing machine softeners contain an ingredient that slightly adheres items being ironed to the board.
I actually enjoy ironing, providing there is not too much to do. An average wash for my wife and me can be done within an hour, perhaps 45 minutes. When ironing I find my mind is free to think of all manner things. The process is very therapeutic, and the automatic actions required for ironing provide gentle exercise for my arms and back muscles. I must admit that I wasn’t keen on ironing my uniform when I was in the Royal Artillery doing National Service between 1955 and 1957. That was a chore, because I served in a training camp which meant I had to keep my gear spick and span to impress trainees. I had to undergo weekly inspections, just like the trainee servicemen. If my trousers didn’t have creases resembling knife blades I was reprimanded by the Serjeant* Major.
My advice to any young lady is, do not marry a man unless he owns an iron and enjoys ironing! Only if this is the case, will the two of you be happy.
*When I was in the Army the spelling of ‘Sergeant’ in the Royal Artillery was ‘Serjeant’, because it was the Senior Regiment, but I understand that ‘The Rifles’ also spell ‘Serjeant’ with a ‘j’ instead of a ‘g’.

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