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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