Any old iron...

Several things can go rushing out of the back door when retirement comes in at the front.  There are warehouses full of anecdotes about people - specially men, for some reason - who fall to pieces when they retire; vegetating blankly in an armchair, believing everything they read in the Daily Mail and thus drifting deeper into reactionary grumpiness while their frantic wives feed them cake, inadvertently clogging their arteries and fattening them up for the coffin.

For others though - and their numbers seem to be increasing - retirement is like huge hangar-doors opening for the first time and revealing vistas of unimaginable opportunity and adventure.  Happily, large numbers of retired folk take up the challenge of stepping outside to find out exactly what it is that their working lives have prevented them from experiencing.

They take up hang-gliding or needlepoint or genealogy.  They learn Spanish or Kurdish or even Welsh.  They go ski-ing in Austria or mountaineering on the less challenging slopes of Andorra or Norway.  They travel for travel’s own sake, taking advantage of its undreamed-of cheapness, all the while getting both smilingly envious of younger people for whom such things are taken for granted and quietly jubilant that they are still spry enough to enjoy it all.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I’m about to bring forth the many journeys I’ve made since the BBC’s revolving door revolved me unceremoniously out of the Pink Palace as evidence that I am very much of the latter type.  But I’m not going to do that at all.

For me, the most powerful - and most recent - symptom of the joys of my own retirement lie in a different direction entirely.

I’ve started ironing.

Until fairly recently, the last time I’d ironed a shirt in anger was several decades ago.  Whole wars have started and ended, a generation has come and gone, and several careers have slid into oblivion since I last put heat to fabric, as it were.

Until, that is, I found myself looking into a fitting-mirror in Marks and Spencer’s and being appalled at the slovenly, crumply, creasy, disordered untidiness of what was a moderately expensive shirt.  Well, expensive by my standards.

It looked no different to the way my shirts generally look, except that I’d noticed it.  I looked like a Jesmond vagrant.

So I went across the street and - unbelievably - bought an iron.  When I got it home, I realised that I already owned one.  I just hadn’t realised…

The problems started at once.  The ironing board seemed to have the constructional complexity of a cartoon deck-chair and kept collapsing.  And my newly-acquired iron had buttons and switches and dials the purpose of which eluded me.  (I still don’t really know what they all do but I press them and flick them anyway.)  The days of simply heating up a heavy, handled steel plate and pressing it down mercilessly onto an innocent swatch of polycotton have obviously long gone.

The real problem, though, is the ironing process itself - and this is where you come in…

I may be stupid but I’m not daft.  I have no intention of ironing my socks, kecks, jeans, handkerchieves or sheets like I understand some people are wont to do.  That way lies insanity.

I am only going to iron my shirts.  And I am only going to iron them if someone has the experience, skill and straightforward gumption to tell me how to do it.

I am aware that, as with so many things, there is a correct and a hopelessly incorrect sequence of events attached to shirt-ironing.  In exactly the same way, I’m reminded of an on-air discussion we had on one of Paul’s Saturday shows about the ‘proper’ way of mounting toilet rolls; do you pull the paper over the top or out from underneath?  Paul and I disagreed as vehemently as is possible with such matters of domestic nicety and the phone-calls we got were split down the middle (so to speak).  The matter remains unresolved to this day…

Back to shirts, though.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried various permutations in the way I iron my shirts.  Collar first, then yoke, sleeves and body.  Sleeves, then yoke, collar and body.  Yoke, then body, collar and sleeves.  And so on and so on.  The problem is that each time I try a different regime, I have an uneasy feeling that, if someone knowledgeable about such things were watching, they would either gasp at my ignorance of what is right and proper or guffaw at my clumsy incompetence.

So...once and for all...is there a domestic god or goddess amongst our sacred fellowship who knows what the prescribed order of shirt-parts during the ironing process is?

If so, please get in touch at once before I throw in the (unironed) towel and decide to take up dusting instead - God forbid.

Isn’t life bizarre?
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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Val said...

Certainly no domestic goddess but this is how I iron shirts [can't believe I'm publicly discussing one of my most hated jobs]
Start with collar, left sleeve, right sleeve,ironing each cuff before you iron the sleeve. Now use the shaped end of ironing board to iron the right front yoke, moving the shirt around the shaped end of the board to iron the back yoke, then the left yoke. Work down from the left yoke to iron the left front, followed by the back then finally the right front. Put on hanger and hang in wardrobe.

Bentonbag said...

I am weird in that I actually get a great deal of satisfaction from ironing and do everything except hosiery.
My sister was astonished when I told her I iron underwear (both mine and the boys). Partly to ensure they aren't damp after washing - being brought up in Wales we're neurotic about wearing damp clothing. Partly to kill off any lingering germs. Partly because they fit in the drawers easier. But mostly because they just look and feel nicer when I go to the drawer to get them out in the morning - almost like new until the elastic goes.
I have such low standards in most areas of housekeeping a weasle couldn't limbo under them - but here is one island of excellence.

J. Arthur Smallpiece said...

First the collar
Then each cuff
Then the front.
And that's enough.

N.B. No good ever comes from looking in a mirror.

Bentonbag said...

I had a scouse friend at uni who only ever ironed the collar and cuffs of his shirts on the grounds that he always wore a jumper so no-one would see the rest.

If you go into the ladies in The Bridge Hotel there is a space above the wash-hand-basins where the mirror should be. So when you look up you see a line of doors identical to the ones behind you. For a few seconds, last time I was there, I wondered where on earth my reflection had gone to! And I'd only had a half!

I'm told the gents are much the same.

Sid said...

I used to work for Northunbria Police. I once complained to my wife Jean about the ironing of the shirt sleeves.........
I had to iron my own shirts for the next Thirteen Years!!!!

Ian Robinson said...

Beautifully succinct instructions, thanks. Until the part where it says 'hang in the wardrobe'. I'm not sure how me hanging there improved the finish of the shirt but it was good fun while it lasted.

A nicely Cymric anecdote, if I may say so - and I love the line about how low your housework standards are.

J Arthur Smallpiece...
Champion to hear from you after all this time - and, again, your ironing advice is succinctness personified. How are you, you old mountebank??? Ever in the Town?

Serves you right!!

A VERY happy St Christina The Astonishing's Day to everyone!!!