24 Nov 2006
Thank God for the Washing Machine…
I write this post somewhat haggard and bleary eyed. One of the joyful spinoffs of fatherhood is those nights where one or more of your children are up vomiting all night. Last night was a supreme exhibition of synchronised vomiting, 2 children awake most of the night, copious puke and very little sleep. Now, the morning after the night before (or something), having spent some rather unpleasant time rinsing sheets and towels, I am reminded of a discussion I had while teaching on the Life After Oil course at Schumacher College this week (of which more in later posts). A post-peak world will, by necessity, mean less electronic ‘stuff’, and while I would reluctantly but understandingly kiss goodbye to mobile phones, TVs, computers and toasted sandwich machines, you would need a crowbar to separate me from my washing machine.
One of the oral histories I have been doing touched on clothes washing. The woman I was talking to talked about how she washed her 4 childrens’ clothes in a tub with water she heated on a gas stove, and then hung it all up to dry in the flat they lived in. This was only 50 years ago. She was unphased by how much work it was and said that’s just what you had to do. The washing machine of course, perhaps more than any other applicance, freed women from the drudgery of housework, and is perhaps the single most important invention of the 20th century.
The problem really kicks in with the fact that we all need to have one in each of our houses. Washing machines are far more efficient when they are shared, and are part of highly energy efficient laundrettes (as set out in Ernst U.von Weizsacker’s Factor Four, I think they have done these at BedZed. It may be that we will all have to go back to the mangle and hours and hours of washing by hand, and as a single person I would be unphased by this, but as a family man I sit here looking at this pile of revolting washing and have to say, thank God for the washing machine.