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  • Heather Haylock

Something Fishy . . .

Captain’s Log 16-4-20

Covid-19-Date 21

Many things have changed during this period of saving lives by staying at home.

Where we go. What we eat. How we shop. Who we spend time with. What we do. What we see.

The work we do. The way we talk to people. The ways we nourish our minds. The patterns of our days. The laundry we do.


The laundry.

Before this very different way of being, when we went out to work and to school and to the shops and to parks and beaches, we created very different kinds of laundry.

As the Principal Keeper of the Laundry in our house, I was intimately involved with washing the detritus of daily life off the fabric skins members of my family wrapped themselves in each day.

In our house, that meant washing pen marks off teenagers’ school shirts, soaking stinky smells out of PE gear, scrubbing mud off football socks, rinsing chlorine out of swimming togs, dabbing spilt coffee off business shirts, and water-blasting and scouring grubby little painty fingerprints and snot off the clothes I wore to school where I work with five year olds with no idea of personal boundaries, personal hygiene, or sneezing into your elbow. (Sorry for that long, breathless sentence. It’s what laundry-time feels like at my place.)

And then came Covid-19.

So we stayed at home. No more rushing for the school bus in the mornings. No more PE. No football, swimming, business meetings, or helping tiny people learn to read their first books all by themselves.

Just a lot of washing of hands. And talking on phones and looking at people in their natural habitats via Zoom and facetime.

So the laundry changed too. Now it’s more track pants and jeans and t-shirts and PJs and warm socks. And towels. And hand-towels. SO many hand-towels.

Rather than having one or two communal soggy hand-towels in the bathroom for people to dry their hands on, and a hand-towel hanging next to the tea-towel on the oven handle in the kitchen, I instituted a ‘one-wash-one-towel’ policy. So when you wash your hands, you use a clean hand-towel, and into the laundry it goes. No drying your hands on the same slightly damp hand-towel the rest of the family has already used. Brilliant! Less transmission of bugs.

But there’s a catch. Who has that many hand-towels sitting about in their linen cupboard? Maybe some of you do. But we didn’t. We ran out of hand-towels. Not one to give up, and true to my ancestors’ “Make it, mend it, wear it out, make it do or do without’ values, I improvised. I dug out some of the bath-towels we used for our teenagers when they were babies – the ones with fairies and gentle pastel stripes on them – now, threadbare and faded, shrunken and a little bit holey. I chopped them up, zipped around the edges with the trusty overlocker machine and, hey presto! A big pile of slightly-larger-than-a-facecloth squares, perfect for hand-drying in the Covid-emergency.

Because we aren’t going anywhere, the family laundry now has almost no clothes in it. We are, generally wearing one change of clothes each day.

The bulk of the washing is now hand-towels. My trusty rotary washing line looks like the entrance to a festive A&P show, with multi-coloured, slightly faded and vintage-style strips of bunting fluttering in the autumn breeze.

So you can imagine my surprise when I looked out the window to see a mermaid tail and bikini-top flapping about on my washing line, scales shimmering in the sunlight.

This is not an item that is often seen in the suburb of Papatoetoe. Our house is many kilometres from the sea.

My addled writer’s mind slipped directly to wondering what the mermaid was wearing if she wasn’t wearing her tail. Would two legs have unfolded from the tail with awkward, elongated, flappity feet? And where was she while she waited for her tail to dry? And mermaids live in the water so why would they want their tails to dry anyway? So many questions. I was about to head outside with a bucket of water to slosh over a dehydrated mermaid, far from the sea, when I remembered.

The night before, the teenaged daughter, the one whose school uniforms I was no longer laundering, had been re-enacting a scene from her childhood favourite TV show, ‘H2O Just Add Water’. The scene where, during the full moon, the moon shines on the water and the girls turn into mermaids. This was apparently going to be for a Tickety-Tockety face-snap-insta-chat-thingy she was creating. So the old dress-up mermaid tail and the spa pool had been brought into service on the night of the full-moon. And she washed and hung out the tail to dry the next day.

Not quite as exciting as searching for a real-life-shrivelled-up mermaid in your back yard, but infinitely less fishy.

Is that the washing machine beeping? I’d better go hang some more bunting on the washing line.

Wash your hands!

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