Wednesday 27 August 2014

Lessons on Linen

Linen comes from flax.
Last week I was in the big closet, checking for moths. And I wondered why it was that God had made clothes moths anyway. Clothes moths are ugly, so they don't reflect the glory of God.  Moths don't seem to help us in any way. Indeed, they are just a pest. So what was the point? Why moths? What are they good for?

Came the answer: They got you to do regular housework.

Well, that's true. I resisted doing regular housework because I thought I hated doing housework. I did it in dribs and drabs, which occasionally drove my husband crazy. However, one of my better qualities is that I love hospitality, even more than B.A., so when Polish Pretend Son asked if we could store his clothing until the following October, we both said yes. Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered we had moths. I felt like the Lady Macbeth of wardrobes. 

There began a battle royal the the moths, which began mostly with chemical warfare. Moths don't like lavender, but it doesn't actually kill them or their vile eggs or larvae, so I have made several trips to George Street to buy fancy lavender-scented moth poison. B.A. discovered that Tesco has somewhat cheaper nicely-scented moth poison so I have switched to that. Meanwhile, I have bought lavender oil, lavender-infused drawer liners and lavender sachets, all of which make my own dressing room/office/lady's guest room smell rather nice, if grandmotherly. (I prefer not to use insecticide in bedrooms.)

But chemical warfare is not enough because our big closet is actually a room (indeed, it probably used to be the butler's or the housekeeper's bedroom, the sitting-room being his or her sitting-room) and the various moth-killing devices are meant for enclosed spaces. So one day I simply took absolutely everything out of the closet and hoovered the carpet. I searched suitcases for moth damage, and although they left PPS's stuff alone, they had chewed their way through some McAmbrose stuff, which I tossed, cursing, away. 

I then read in my life-changing tome Home Comforts that moths shouldn't be a problem if you dust and vacuum your home once a week, and doubt assailed me. Could it be that just vacuuming before dinner parties--B.A.'s job--was a seriously bad idea? Apparently housekeeping is not some laughably outré activity for university-educated women, best done by hired help. Apparently housekeeping is absolutely crucial to human comfort and happiness. 

But, to repeat a post of last week, I was not inspired to unparalleled heights of hoovering until I read Home Comforts' warnings about dust mites. And now every room in the flat, save kitchen and bathroom, gets dusted and vacuumed at least once a week. I drag furniture and storage boxes into the hallway. I get down on my knees and wipe the baseboards with a damp cloth. I examine walls for moths, and if I find any, I squash them between my fingers. As a result, the flat looks great, and I take actual pride in my housework. It isn't some lesser-than activity. It's actually important

There are still tasks at which I balk. One is ironing. My mother is a champion ironer, but I don't see the point of standing at an ironing board ironing away watching TV when one's husband buys permanent press shirts and one can be doing something else. However, I do see the point in ironing linen tablecloths and napkins. There is nothing like washed and ironed linen. It is simply one of the nicest substances there is. So the last time I boiled-washed a linen tablecloth and the napkins, I just hung them up to dry and promised B.A. I'd iron them. I even rolled the dried tablecloth around a giant cardboard tube the professional Historical House Housekeeper let me have. 

Then I put off ironing them all for two weeks. Tube and drying frame sat in a corner of the immaculately hoovered sitting-room, except when moved out into the hallway when I was again hoovering the sitting-room. Then yesterday, Tuesday being closet-and-sitting-room day, on the tube of linen I found a moth.

Aaah! It's always the sitting-room! I'm relieved it's not anywhere we keep clothing, but WHY the sitting-room, I ask. It's one of the most used rooms in the flat--in the evenings anyway. But more importantly, did that horrid creature lay eggs on our clean linen tablecloth? 

Lesson learned: time to iron! As I had learned at my mother's knee, if you don't wash your clothes in hot water, you do need to iron them because it is heat that kills unspeakable, soap-resistant bugs. Ironing would definitely kill any random moth egg.

I checked Home Comforts, and it said linen has to be at least a little damp before you iron it, so I thoroughly dampened the napkins and tablecloth in the bathroom sink, heated the iron to hot, clicked on an Italian conversation recording, and got to work. 

And I rather enjoyed it, actually. Ironing flat things is much easier than ironing shirts, which my mother does beautifully, having sent five children to uniform schools and a man to a university for 44.5 years. When she was here at Christmastide, she even ironed a few of B.A.'s shirts, a nice treat for him. 
I found a lost Norseman today. I realized who he was and where he came from as soon as he stopped dead before me in the driveway of the Historical House. He was young, blonde, blue-eyed, confused and clearly looking for something. We see a lot of these people at the Historical House.

"Are you looking for the [Norse] Consulate?" I asked. All modern-day Norsemen  speak at least a little English. 

"Yes," bleated the Norseman. "I have been looking for half an hour, and I cannot find it. I even stood in the place Google maps says it is, and it is not there."

I did my best to explain where it was--I have never seen it myself, although I hear it looks like a shed--and sent him on his way.

It is amusing that a nation of Vikings is now so pacific. It must be less amusing when those Norsemen who mistake the Historical House for their consulate discover that their Edinburgh consulate more closely resembles a shed. At any rate, my imagination stands still at the idea of these sophisticated, pacific people ever sacking the Historical House, as I am now bidding it to do. Bonnie Prince Charlie himself never broke down the Historical House's magnificent oak door.* It would take a really old-fashioned Norseman to do that. Beowulf, or someone. 

*Of course, we are not sure he even noticed it when he came gallumphing past in 1745. The Historical Family had fled before him, however. The Historical Family was incredibly Hanoverian and Protestant--the principal reason why it is so amusing that the Historical Attic is now occupied by Roman Catholics. 

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