We are not going to Margate today. Instead we are going to the launderette. The laundry baskets are full to overflowing and supplies of clean underwear and towels are running low. There is nothing for it but to do the necessary chore.
It goes something like this. First we get out the holiday suitcase, the one with the wheels and extensible handle. We then empty the laundry basket and other various caches of dirty clothing into it. In all probability, there will be some items left over which have to be accommodated in bags. Next we get out the bag containing coins for the machines to see whether we have enough. Then we are ready to go. Having put off the evil moment as long as possible, we set out bravely.
The launderette we use these days is a bus ride away, the other side of Kings Cross. To give ourselves encouragement, we walk or take the bus to Kings Cross Thameslink Station and brave the traffic to get to the other side of the road. While Tigger goes into the newsagent’s to check the papers for give-away DVDs, I enter the cafe. It’s usually full of orange-jacketed workmen from the building project at St Pancras but we generally find a table. Ghengis (that’s not his real name but we call him that because, well, we think he looks like Ghengis Khan) takes the order. This is for two vegetarian breakfasts, one black tea and one white coffee. We do love our breakfasts. High point of the day.
Breakfast over, we dodge the traffic again and get back on the bus. Heaving the heavy suitcase on and off a crowded bus isn’t always easy but you get used to it. You learn to do a bit of necessary pushing and shoving. We disembark opposite the British Library and drag to suitcase to the launderette. Sometimes the place is crowded and there is competition for machines. Early morning is best: the place is patronized by students who are not known for being early risers.
We stuff a couple of washing machines and set them going then betake ourselves to a cafe down the road. This is an interesting place as it seems to be run by people from Valencia. In winter we have hot chocolate and in summer, juice or tea. After hanging around in there as long as we dare, we go back to the launderette for the really boring part of the operation.
This is where we empty the wet laundry into baskets and toss it into the dryers. Then there’s nothing to do but sit and wait until each dryer terminates, then sort out the dry from the still wet, chuck the latter back in and start the cycle again. Gradually, the heap of dry stuff builds up in the suitcase and at last the whole thing is done. We zip up the case and haul it into the street. After the hot and humid interior of the launderette, the air is pleasantly fresh.
Depending on the time of day, we either go home or go for a meal. There is nothing odd about going into a restaurant or cafe in the Kings Cross area with a big suitcase, after all. One of our favourite places is the Pizza Express where we get two vegetarian pizzas and share them. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly: just what you want after a hot and tiring session at the launderette. Laundry is a chore and these little pleasures help persuade us to get it done.
Finally, we catch the bus home, elbowing our way into a corner where I can stow the suitcase. At home we sort the dry washing and put it away. Then we can have a cup of tea and a rest and enjoy the wonderful feeling that we won’t have to go to the launderette again… until next month.
In case you are wondering, no, we don’t do any ironing. There is an iron somewhere – at least, I seem to remember seeing one – but we wouldn’t dream of using it. Like William of Occam (who according to legend threw away his razor), we like to keep things simple.