Friday, February 8, 2013

Running Water:Turn off that tap!

Speaking of gadgets that help women, what about running water? Back in the sixties when I lived in  Kosovo, southern Yugoslavia, almost every new flat had its washing machine but down among the old wooden houses there was still just a tap out in the yard. But wait! What luxury! As one of my colleagues at the university explained, "The women are very happy now- before they had to get water out in the street."

Kosovo was just another distant province of the old Turkish Empire until the First World War and in terms of plumbing, and much else, had not changed a lot. Everyone, Communist party members, students, welcomed me to the capital with the same apology: "Pristina is a dirty town!"  Their reasoning, from the Turkish time, the world before modern plumbing: "We are in the plain- no river!" The two beautiful old towns in Kosovo, Pec and P:rizren, they explained, were "clean"- built on the banks of fast flowing mountain rivers- running water!

The fact that I also get a kick out of turning on a tap and seeing water come out - and hot water too!- dates from before Kosovo, to student days when I persuaded a wary housewife to let me turn her attic into 'digs.' The only problem, having to go down two flights to the bathroom for water. And later when I snagged a  top flat in London, (right near the Thames and the Tate Gallery!) same problem- two flights down for water.
Unfortunately, unlike the gorgeous women who sway off to wells with pots on their heads, going for water  did nothing for my posture. Hauling up plastic buckets on narrow stairs was more Hunchback of Notre Dame. But, children, it does explain why I regularly squawk (sometimes, just to myself,) "Don't waste water! Turn off that tap!"

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Washing Machine

As the man said: the secret of happiness is a pleasing monotony. As for a woman a washing machine runs it close, though maybe you need to be of a certain vintage for that to apply. Or, right now, to be a mother bombed out of Aleppo, in a refugee camp on the Turkish border. (Syria, children!) Digression: The girls at the cash registers in Publix keep asking me for a dollar here, a dollar there for cancer, for children, for diabetes, and I demand "What about SYRIA?" reinforcing the impression that the world, especially the supermarket world, is full of addled old ladies.
Digression  2- Speaking of addled old ladies and the Middle East:  we had a power outrage one evening  back when Iraq was the daily news story and Florida Power and Light got us back on line, in the dark! And a nice gentleman called about nine checking all was OK. Such courteous American efficiency! And I said  "Thankyou! Makes you think about the poor people in Baghdad, doesn't it?"  Pause. OK, Apparently not.

Yes, washing machines. I am a lot older than many Mums and I certainly grew up in the UK long before the world speeded up so much that they were showing the same new movie at the Odeon, Friar Street, Reading Berks as in New York, the same week! But when I listed what we didn't have as children, not even starting on high tech - no fridge, no car, no telephone, no TV, no washing machine, no dryer, my children looked at me like -"We're you living in a cave, eating grass?"
No fridge? Well, that was long before global warming and we weren't in Florida but on hot summer days my mother put our bottle of milk in a basin of cold water (no ice) with a cloth over it. And when it turned sour we all had pancakes! So not all bad.
OK, one last thing. I think the washing machine has been more important for some women than the Pill. Because if you had a washing machine, you wouldn't mind having more kids.