I ought to be writing about Trump, just as everyone who wrote in the 1930s ought to have been writing about the rise of fascism. Fascism was catastrophic. Trump is catastrophic. He is the incarnation of the male id. He is the worst human being in the worst possible place. He is limitlessly vain, greedy and cruel and limitlessly ignorant of his own vanity, greed and cruelty. He knows nothing of his own knowing nothing. If the west emerges from his presidency not on fire, not in a depression and not at war it will be a bloody miracle.
That said, however, that has been said. And saying it has made no difference. Those who see Trump for what he is continue to see him for what he is, while those who don't don't. Why, I can't tell you. But I doubt that anyone's going to change their mind. And besides, a changed mind down here in the South Pacific is not going to have much effect. So I shall write about washing machines.
Count your blessings, count them one by one, begins the old hymn, written by a rich American at the end of the 19th century. Like most hymns, like most religions indeed, it was an effort by the haves to con the have-nots into accepting, and indeed being grateful for, their havenottedness.
Nevertheless, it isn't a bad line. Taking stock of one's good fortune is a good thing. It is good to give thanks for having, say, a well-disposed dog, a quiet neighbour, teeth that don't ache, teeth indeed and a perch on these pleasant islands, or for not being at war, not being subject to an authoritarian government, not being in the same hemisphere as Trump, or for limbs that work, a log burner, more-or-less free education, nice birds, benign spiders, cricket on telly, a dry bed, a full fridge and yeah, verily, I say unto you, a washing machine. For a washing machine is a wonder.
Mine is older than my dog and the dog's got dim eyes and arthritis. I have never cleaned it, serviced it, moved it. Once or twice it's moved itself when it's struggled with an ill-balanced load and has flung itself about the laundry in the effort to digest it, like an anaconda writhing with a feisty antelope. But it has always survived and gone back to work without fuss.
It has lights and buttons on its dashboard and words like "delicates" I do not understand, but the only button I have ever pressed on it is Start. And it has always started. And made a sequence of noises, of tinkling and filling, slapping and sloshing, emptying and whirring, then starting again till it reaches the final magnificent spin when the whirr rises to the pitch of a jet engine and you think the machine is going to burst with the energy held within it when suddenly, clunk, it detumesces, brakes, stops, rolls over and lights a cigarette. And that's that, job done.
The first washing machine I remember was crowned with a mangle. But it was still better, far better, than what must have preceded it, the boiled copper, the thrashing and rinsing. In poor countries and in poor regions of rich countries I have watched women, always women, washing clothes in rivers, beating cloth on rocks, rubbing and scrubbing, scouring and rinsing. It's work I do not want to do.
For years after I left home I lived in places with no washing machines. The pile of soiled clothes in the corner of my rented room would swell till it threatened to ferment. Then with my nose wrinkling like a boxer dog's I'd fling the lot in a bin liner and lug it to the backstreet place where hope went to die, the laundrette. The memory makes me shudder.
My first machine came with my first house. The house was a hundred years old. The machine and I were 30. But from day one I counted the thing as a blessing. To use it was more than to wash clothes. It was semi-religious.
I brought the thing the evidence of my flesh, the excrudescences, the secretions, the sour remnants of foot, crotch and armpit, and it took them away. In less than an hour it sifted the vice of the flesh from the virtue of the cloth. It seemed a miracle of sorts, like going to the confessional, that most brilliant of religious tricks. You go in with a burden of guilt. You come out clean and whole and ready to sin again. The washing machine is a plumbed confessional, an electric blessing.
Putting words on paper mug's game - or is it?
And Trump is a stain on our species.