I eat Green Berets for breakfast…

Breaking news! Arnold Schwarzenegger is living in my washing machine.

Have you ever noticed that electronic gadgets and domestic appliances have accents? You’re not going to hear the accent just by opening the box, but you will hear it the first time you are forced to peruse the Instructions.

Remember when things used to come with big, chunky manuals in readable-sized print? Now all you get is a teensy-tiny white leaflet, mostly in foreign languages. I sometimes glance at the Serbo-Croat segment first, on the grounds that it will make no less sense than the English, assuming there is any English. Isn’t English one of the most widely spoken languages in the world?

Moving away from washing machines for a moment – to my Doro phone. Before I met her I’d assumed she would be Italian. Doro, Doro – sounds dark and sultry like Sophia Loren. She is designed for the the post-Pension, pre-Alzheimer’s market or, shall we say, the first-time or apprehensive user.

Welcome to Internet

What happened to the ‘the’?

Standard smartphones contain all sorts of clever stuff, but if you’ve never seen one before, have never heard of an app and have no idea that all those little round blobs are called icons and are meant to be clicked on, they can be intimidating. Doros contain all the stuff that standard smartphones do, but heavily camouflaged under giant primary-school lettering in bright colours, and very simple sentences that – confusingly – could mean almost anything.

Something on the internet.
What song is playing now?
Something in my phone.

My phone
Around me
Something on the internet

A message
A contact card
A note…

It took me a week to discover that a message was the same as a text, and I still don’t know, or care enough, to find out what a contact card is.

In fact Doro is Swedish, or Danish, or Finnish, or Norwegian – one of those Scandi types, and she ‘sounds’, and in my mind looks, like the less beautiful one from Abba. I like Abba and deeply admire Scandinavians, but I’m not keen on Miss Patronising Snootyface Doro. Still, she serves her purpose, and by now I have worked out by trial and error where she’s hiding all the complicated stuff (so Granny can’t wreck the phone).

And this morning – another new friend. I discovered that my washing machine was voiced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Did you know that Arnie was turned down to voice the German version of the Terminator, even though he did offer, because he’s Austrian and sounds to Germans like a yokel? It’s true. I heard it on Radio 4. Poor Arnie.

For months he’s been silent since I have failed to peruse the instructions. I did the usual 2-second scan once the uniformed delivery chappies had left, just to make sure they were instructions and not some form I was supposed to fill in. I only ever actually read instructions when things go wrong, and sometimes not even then. I’ve found I can figure out how gadgets work in less time by pressing buttons at random/semi-dismantling them, than by trying to follow the instructions. I’m not dyslexic, just unable to focus on any collection of words that bore, or might possibly bore me.

But this morning my empty washing machine was half full of drainy-smelling water.  I suspected this might be something to do with the plumbers having just been to fit the water-supply-cut-off-lever under the sink, which had involved cutting off the water, but I couldn’t be sure. I knew the time had come – just in case, I was going to have to tackle that oft-put-off task, draining the filter for the first time.

The filter and hose on my washing-machine are supposed to be cleaned once a month. They have not been because:

  1. I knew it would be a megastressful experience, and I am not good with stress;
  2. the filter/hose service compartment on the right hand side of the machine. I am strongly left-handed and could see that if I was going to manipulate any thingummyjigs and whatsits I was going to have to use my much weaker hand.
  3. the pump filter/hose service compartment is right down at floor level. I am not as young as I was and could see that to look into the pump filter/hose service compartment I would need to be lying flat on my face. How would I get up from there, there being nothing within range to haul myself up with?

Firstly I take the instructions upstairs to the printer and magnify the Cleaning The Filter page by 150% so that I can see it. I collect a few things I think I might need, plus a low plastic stool.

Unplug the machine.

The plug is at the back of the alcove behind the machine. The machine is huge, rather like its body-building resident, and I suspect I haven’t the strength to pull it out. Also I know from past experience that if you pull a washing machine out it instantly loses all its stability adjustments. Next time you use it it will attempt to flog itself to death against the sink or shuffle across the kitchen to have a chat with the fridge.

I turn off the electrics for the whole house at the junction box. Surely that beast can’t electrocute me now, even if he is still plugged in? Sitting like a milkmaid on the tiny stool I attempt to open the service flap using a coin or a screwdriver.

Nope, and nope. I experiment with a range of small crochet hooks. Nope.

I try a bigger, altogether meaner-looking crochet hook. It falls into two halves. I screw the two halves back together and tug with all my might. The flap comes open – in fact it falls off with a clatter – and the crochet hook falls apart again.

Inspect flap. Miraculously it isn’t broken.

Provide a flat container to catch water. What is a flat container? If something is flat, how can it contain water? I get a mug.

These could be big amounts. 

At this point, Arnold Schwarzenegger kicks in.

Zese could be beeg amountz!

What do you mean beeg amountz – enough to flood the kitchen? Enough to be contained in a flat container?

If it bleeds, ve can kill it!

Pull the drainhose out and hold its end above the container. 

The drainhose is quite small. I had been expecting something the size of Arnie’s… thigh. I hold it above the mug and remove the sealing plug. The sealing plug is, of course, rammed in there tight and difficult to remove, but I manage it.

Consider zat a divorce.

Smelly water starts dribbling into the cup. After complete drainage close drainhose and push it back into the machine. This is all rather distasteful. I am trying not to remember what it reminds me of.

Unscrew and remove counterclockwise the pump filter.

He had to spleet.

He refuses to spleet. The pump filter will not budge. I remember Ex explaining (probably for several hours) the difference between finger-tight and the other sort of tight that only people with whirly-machines or cast-iron wrists can achieve. Ex used to turn off taps that way: no wonder the washers were always perishing. This one has obviously been tightened by Arnie himself.

I go in search of my black and yellow super-man-size-industrial pliers…

You are one ugly motherf….er

…grasp them in both hands, brace myself with my foot and wrench. Yeah, baby! The pump filter gives way and stinky water gushes onto the kitchen floor. I had expected the very-much water to come out of the hose. It hadn’t occurred to me that the screwy-thing would contain so very much more very-much water.

I lied.

Clean carefully the pump filter. I clean-carefully-it, using a J-cloth rather than running water as specified.

I eat Green Berets for breakfast…

Yeah, yeah…

…and right now I’m very hungry.

Refix the pump filter and tighten clockwise to prevent leaks. Surely not. You don’t mean you have to screw-back-it clockwise having unscrewed-anticlockwise-it? And if you don’t, water will come out?

Close service flap. Before doing so I attach a stout piece of red garden string to the slot in the flap. Next time, I can just pull on the string. Why didn’t it come with string?

Hasta la vista, baby. I’ll be back.

Saturday Night Ramble

Mum and Dad used to belong to a Cycling Club, one of whose (which’s?) many sub-activities was know as The Wednesday Wobblers. This was a group of older cyclists who met on a Wednesday and cycled unbelievably long distances in order to eat a pub meal and drink a pint of beer and wobble all the way back home again. My parents disliked the name actually, because they didn’t wobble; they were better cyclists than that. And because it had been invented by their arch enemy, Fat Pat.

And so, being now in a Club of One I thought I would engage in a Saturday Night Ramble, mainly because I haven’t written anything for some time and still can’t come up with anything coherent to say. But that never stopped me in the past. Incoherence is my middle name.

Today it was chilly, and raining on and off, but my friend and I had arranged to go to the next village down for fish and chips and so we went. Actually we almost never manage to get into the fish and chip emporium since it is always stuffed full of seaside-visiting grockles in tracksuits, hooped earrings and tattoos, and today was no exception. We always seem to time it wrong. One moment the place is empty. By the time we have crossed the road – rather slowly since my friend is disabled – the grockles have packed it and are spilling out onto the pavement.

We ended up with egg and chips at another place, almost equally packed, and a three-quarter of an hour wait for that. Then they brought only one plate of egg and chips, though I had clarified (twice, in fact) to the very slow woman at the till that we needed egg and chips twice, there being two of us, as they could clearly see, rather than one of us requiring two eggs with their chips. So I sat and watched my friend eat her chips, and her two eggs, and meanwhile got through six half-slices of bread-and-marge off a hefty white china plate. She had more or less finished by the time my egg and chips arrived. The mug of tea seemed to me to taste strongly of fish, but she said it was probably just that my mind was still in fish and chip mode.

Home again, I turned the central heating on and sat for several hours doing battle with my mobile phone. It is one of those Doro old-people phones with all possibility of doing anything dangerous strictly hidden from view so as to discourage Mother or Father from tampering with the settings and messing things up. Unfortunately I am not quite old enough for a Doro and am finding it increasingly frustrating, and patronising in its attitude. It thwarts me at every turn. It was populated with an awful lot of what I believe is collectively known as Bloatware – lots of Google stuff I had no need for, and obscure features nobody with any sort of life could possibly have need of. Add to that a small memory, an absolute refusal to use the memory card I had purchased and installed, and an insistence that I delete every single app I had ever installed in order to make room for Bloatware updates it didn’t have enough Memory to perform…

I tried swapping the SIM and the memory card to another phone, but this caused all sorts of problems. Google demanded that I sign in and kept presenting me with all those unreadable wiggly things. After an hour it was still refusing to accept that I was me, and I gave up, moved the SIM and the memory card back. Then I installed a file manager and viciously (viciously, I say) disabled or deleted every single Google bloat-thingy, every single Doro feature I had never found a use for and every single app that I couldn’t attribute a function to. That worked! Pah, I hate smartphones.

And now I am listening to music on my MP3 player to drown out the noise of the party next door. The trick is to turn the volume up just loud enough to partially distract from the thumping electronic beat and screeching pre-teens, but not quite loud enough to damage your own hearing.

Catwise, I now have another problem. One of my outdoor strays looks to have a damaged leg, but I can’t get near him. If he had just allowed himself to get tame first, I could have picked him up. All I can do is keep putting food out and hope he can manage to heal himself. Or for the universe to persuade him he really needs to trust the Giantess to take him to the vet and get fixed. So far the food is continuing to disappear, but I can’t be sure it’s him eating it, since there is Mystery Dog, another ginger tom (Sunshine), the ever-present Ratties and now a small brown mouse. The cats are glued to the back door watching the mouse’s insouciant preening of his whiskers inches from their noses, the wrong side of the double glazing.

The Cats Protection lady is still going to come and see me, but her companion is not. We have arranged this between us. He took a fancy to me and mowed my lawn. Then he told me I was Not Very Practical and obviously needed Taking In Hand and a Real Man To Look After Me. Then he grabbed me in the kitchen and started sending unspeakably suggestive texts all evening, every evening. Yuk! I find it amazing that now, when I am old and toothless (well, not completely toothless) – weirdo men seem to be coming out of the woodwork, attired in big boots, khaki shorts and hearing aids, or too tight overcoats that smell strongly of mothballs. Whereas when I was younger and at least willowy and acceptable-looking I couldn’t seem to get a boyfriend for love nor money. And oh, old men are so disgusting. They just never seem to lose the conviction that any single woman must be just gasping – gasping – for their slobbering embraces. He brought me unwanted food, and secreted it in my fridge, in cupboards etc., when I wasn’t looking. I have been throwing it out as I find it. This morning yet another dryish sultana loaf fell out of the cupboard…

Ow, think I’m going to have to turn the MP3 down. Perhaps they’ve stopped, next door…

Yes, a few minutes break before…

Ah, but there they go again. And it’s that idiot with the paint pot singing “I can hear it coming in the wind tonight”. They always get onto that one sooner or later.

And now Ed Sheeran… beautiful and sweet… we were just kids when we fell in love…