My washer broke down this week - words to send a chill down the spine of any woman. Of all my time saving devices, my washing machine is the one closest attached to my sanity. When it breaks, it as if someone has lopped off my right arm at the shoulder and then wiped the soggy end on my whites. It is a domestic catastrophe of biblical proportions.
My machine stopped mid-cycle and refused to play any more. It was one week out of its manufacturer's guarantee. We had had lots of letters through offering us appliance insurance and I had dutifully looked at them, researched their services on the internet and decided that it would be better to save the cash and then use a local man if we ever had a breakdown. Happy with my plan, I recycled the letters in the sure knowledge that as the machine was so new it was a wise decision.
So when the machine died so shortly thereafter, I cursed and stamped loudly and then rang my Guardian Angel, my brother, who took away and washed load upon load to get me through the weekend. Day one survived.
On day two, I dived into action with my emergency plan and rang the local man. He doesn't have a mobile so he doesn't ring you back until the end of the working day. I described the machine and the fault. He sucked his teeth and said that the machine was too new and complicated for him to fix but that I would have a five year parts guarantee. A day lost.
It's funny how when you have no washing machine you suddenly have the desire to wash everything that you possess. Cushion covers, coats and curtains all caught my disapproving eye and suddenly became high priority matters as my mind began to panic. On day three I rang the manufacturer who promised to have a man with me by day 6. That would be quite a backlog. After four days there were 24 shirts alone. I went out for coffee and took loads with me to spin whilst we chatted.
Day 6 arrived. The call was from 8am until 6pm. I arranged for someone to cover my school run and began to wait nervously, desperately hoping that whatever the fault was, the man would have the part with him and could fix it on the spot. He did. He replaced the brushes, worn out in just a year and soon my house was again filled with the reassuring whir of the machine.
The seriousness of a broken washing machine is something that all woman understand. When you mention it, they adopt a look of horror, tinged with an flicker of relief that their machine is in full working order and either offer heartfelt sympathy or the use of their machine depending on how well they know you. It's a kind of domestic solidarity that I have come to rely on and which reminds me that we are all in this together. On the darker days, that knowledge is worth a lot.