Thursday, July 20, 2006


Dashing Away with a Smoothing Iron... As a child, I liked the song. As a woman, I loathe the activity with a vengeance. I despise ironing above all domestic chores and so I really resent the 40 minutes or so it has just taken me to press a couple of sheets.

Here’s a confession: I had never ironed a sheet in my life before coming to live here! When I was a child, I suppose my mother did it; when I went to university, the hall of residence laundry did it; when I moved out into digs, I paid the launderette to do it; and by the time I graduated, we were all into duvets with their non-iron covers and undersheets! But here, in the summer, you just have to sleep in cotton, iron-demanding sheets. [Even now, I refuse to iron an undersheet, though – well, I might for a visitor – as they stretch out perfectly passably once fitted onto the bed. Sorry, Siciliane!]

Sicilian women, of course, iron beautifully and the ironing standards of their British sisters is one thing that exchange students from here have been known to criticise. I have, in the past, been flabbergasted in Sicily when I have observed women ironing everything from underwear to tea towels and I nearly fell on the floor when a friend here – a busy, professional woman - told me she spends half a day each week ironing her husband’s shirts! I think the attitude of most British working women to this would these days be similar to that of a Cardiff friend of mine: “ I buy non-iron clothes for myself and if my husband wants to buy clothes that need pressing, he can do it himself.” Archers fans among my compatriots may remember the fictional contretemps between Hayley [Roy’s wife] and Betty [his mother] when the latter started ironing her son’s shirts again: “He’s perfectly capable of doing it himself!” wailed Hayley [the only time I have ever liked the character].

The dry cleaner’s down the road – there are as many dry-cleaning establishments as there are banks, all coexisting virtually side by side -will wash and iron a single bedlinen set for c. 10 euros but I don’t always feel like lugging the stuff down there or that I can afford it. [I could buy a paperback or several g and ts for that!]

Anyway, dear readers, “dashing away with a smoothing iron” is not something I will be doing very often, despite my change of culture!

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