Monday, 30 November -0001

Is this the end of the iron age?

Mark Palmer’s marriage was being held hostage by an ironing board and mountains of crumpled smalls. Until he found a rather eccentric – but life-saving – solution in a Suffolk B&B…

Written by Mark Palmer

My wife and I have issues. The two main ones in the domestic disharmony stakes vying for supremacy are my reluctance to empty the dishwasher and my abhorrence for ironing.

Nothing can be done on the dishwasher front – not until someone invents a robot that can be programmed to perform this appallingly depressing task. But there has been a breakthrough with the ironing. A radical breakthrough.

First, I need to explain. There is something about the sight of ironing boards that sends me into a spiral of despair. They are not structures of any beauty whatsoever and I can’t stand the plastic bottles of squirting water that normally sit on top of them. So far, so reasonable.

The unreasonable and contributing factor is that my wife has some sort of obsession with clean clothes and therefore we are forever submerged in bundles of sheets, piles of pillowcases, mountains of shirts and blouses, unending quantities of underwear and enough towels to open up a thriving charity shop. As soon as I take off jeans they get whisked away and are forced to do a thousand soapy revolutions of our deluxe washing machine that only stands idle between the hours of midnight and 6am. If I take out a shirt from the cupboard, but don’t actually wear it on any given day, it, too, gets thrown into the jaws of our 15-programme, A-rated Bosch with wave drum and built-in aqua spa system.

Socks? They don’t stand a chance of escaping a soaking, even if only worn for a few hours in the evening. And our bed linen often gets changed twice a week – never mind if we’ve been away a few days during that time.

Quite honestly, I haven’t seen our bed properly for years, such is the extent of clothing strewn across it. Meanwhile, an ironing board has been standing sentry at the end of it, exactly where I had visions of a chaise longue occupying this spot when I got married for the second time five years ago. At night, I have never been sure if I’m slipping underneath the duvet, or merely being enveloped by waiting-to-be-ironed tablecloths and T-shirts.

And then we went to stay at a B&B in Suffolk and got talking to the owners.

‘You must have a lot of ironing. Do you do it yourselves?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ said the man of the house. ‘Actually, I’m the one who does it and I enjoy it, too.’

I looked at him suspiciously, but then he pointed to a contraption, not much bigger than a large briefcase, folded up in the corner of the room. It was an ironing press. He said it got the job done in half the time of a conventional hand iron and that it was particularly brilliant with sheets.

That was enough for me. Suddenly, I was boning up on iron presses and all manner of other associated gadgets… There are things called ‘steam generator irons’, which are like normal irons, but with a separate turbo steam tank; rotary irons that are popular with small hotels and ‘garment steamers’ mainly used by clothes shops.

I opted for something called Fast Press and it did a good job, but then I upgraded to a bigger one that has proved to be a revelation, not least because I’m using it more than my wife does and I now feel almost proprietorial about it. It even has a name: Blanca. It hoovers up our clothes with unbridled enthusiasm, cutting vast swathes through our cotton molehills; sheets can be folded and ironed up to four layers at a time and trousers and skirts are in and out of its mighty grip within seconds. T-shirts get pressed in one swift downward movement.

The contraption has the appearance of something from the industrial age: big and strong. Reliable. Built to last. Confident. And yet you can operate it sitting down while watching the TV and you don’t need much in the way of muscles to lift it on, or off, a table.

Suddenly, our house seems larger, the world a little brighter.

Yes, I’ve shelled out a lot of money for a piece of kit – well, two pieces of kit, actually – more suited to a stately pile or busy B&B than our terraced family home, but I like to think I’ll make back my money in a few months, given that we always seemed to be buying new irons every other week, when the poor little things couldn’t cope with the workload.

I think ironing presses are classic back-to-the-future items. They have an old-fashioned ring to them and have far more gravitas than ordinary irons: presence.

And the really good news is that I can see our lovely bed in all its glory – with my new best friend folded up and stored underneath it.

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