Iron Maiden

“Ironing! You still do the ironing!”

Yes, some folk do talk about such things as housework. This was, after all, a conversation between Scottish wifies of a certain age. No men within earshot.

What, however, was so astounding about my ability to iron? Was my appearance so windswept as to suggest one who'd been dragged through a hedge backwards?

Even activities which can no longer be tackled with ease have to be faced. The alternative is to degenerate into a state of creased and threadbare clutter. I do know of people who sit around, listening to talking books or daytime telly, but, invariably, they have wives, or mothers, or both. No, as far as I'm concerned, a semblance of order is vital for sanity and self esteem. The knack is in realising which activities can still be done relatively successfully, in relative safety; which have to be delegated; and which have to be consigned to the dust bin of the impossible. Not as straight forward as you might think because, as I've often mentioned elsewhere, the attitudes of others are frequently a bigger barrier than one's actual disability.

I'm extremely lucky in that I have an excellent home help; a most tactful and observant lady who notices what I overlook. In my case, probably quite a lot! And deals with it. I do what I can between her visits, secure in the knowledge that anything festering quietly in a corner will be dealt with efficiently on her return.

However, even now when I should know better, I'm frequently overwhelmed by a sense of impotent rage because some once mundane and straightforward task is totally and completely impossible. I peer at envelopes, a section of my brain refusing to accept that no amount of squinting, with or without specs will bring faint, fuzzy scratchmarks into focus. All I can do with the morning's post is sort items into catalogues, always in clear cellophane; definite junk, usually in envelopes with a distinctively shiny texture; and what is always the smallest heap, the possibly interesting. Yes, I know there are technological solutions to this particular problem, but they're expensive and, at the moment, I've enough to do adjusting to a new computer.

Life without technology, especially the silicon chip, would certainly be even more frustrating, but I've yet to meet the gadget which totally restores the playing field to a plateau. Gadgets tend to be expensive, are never simple and frequently involve a fair amount of footer. Ask anyone coping with the transfer of a complicated message from telephone to any format more reliable than a middle-aged memory. Even if I go for normality and scribble down a message, usually on the back of that morning's junk mail, what I later hand over to my husband is either blank or resembles a series of runic inscriptions, all superimposed on each other.

Then, there's the time factor. I've never been particularly frenetic but I have constantly to resist the urge to rush whether it's to answer the door, arrange flowers in a vase or organise an afternoon's baking. That's how things break; ankles, bowls, eggs, the list is vast and varied.

And of course, there's organisation. Another thing which does not come naturally to me. That's why I almost became confused over a new bottle of fabric conditioner the other day. Sunflower oil in the dispenser drawer of the washing machine! Can you imagine the consequences? A place for everything and everything in its place is a lesson learned the hard way. Along with checking the contents of any container before use. It'll be a long time before I'll forget the spag bol sauce made with tinned peaches instead of condensed tomato soup.

But worst of all, even worse than a recalcitrant computer is having anyone in the house who thinks their concept of order is far superior to my own. The piles of towels in my hot cupboard may appear higgledy piggledy but I can match towels with bath mats, in a set order so none are overlooked or overused without the assistance of my colour identifier. It's unlikely any man will understand this, but I expect things which ought to match to always do so; towels, socks, crockery. Just because I can't see doesn't mean the house has to resemble the abode of an aging afficiando of Jackson Pollock.

Yes, I've kept myself busy, these last few years. Not only trying to run the house but grappling with technology. Perhaps it's just as well my former employer didn't offer to hold my job for me. When would I have had the time?

© Charlotte Bennie 2008