SUZAN ZELOUF is practically motivated …
Our washing machine is broken. Filled with a load of sodden towels heavy with soapy grey water, it refuses to slog on to rinse and spin. Not even my uber-capable Northern Irishman manages to get it to work, but he does have the phone number of Tony “Washing Machine” Mulhall, who picks up out of hours, suggesting it might be the circuit board, promising to come out the next day. Our Sunday cycle shudders to a halt as we of little faith consider the cost of a new machine versus Tony’s tab. While it may not make the top ten list of inventions that changed the 20th century, I’d trade my laptop for a Hotpoint no contest. I remember as a four-year-old, keeping my grandma company in the dank basement of her Western Pennsylvania apartment building, while she scrubbed dirty clothes against a washboard, its metal ridges rubbing her knuckles raw. Her hands were rough, red and irritated from the big bar of lye soap, yet still as strong as my grandfather’s hands (who made a living shouldering pecks of potatoes to stock their small fruit and vegetable store) as she mangled the linens, then hung them on the line to dry. Waiting for Tony, we went online to compare Black Friday deals on appliances and came across an old commercial for Maytag washing machines, created in 1967, in which American character actor Jesse White (the Maytag Man) gives a pep talk to his fleet of repairmen, warning each of them he’d end up being “the loneliest guy in town”, so dependable was the Maytag. We wondered when it became cheaper to buy new stuff rather than call a repairman. We mourned the impending extinction of practical men and women who knew how to fix things, from toasters to televisions, irons to Instant Pots. And we took a hard look back at 2018, during which Collins Dictionary named “single-use” its word of the year.
Growing up in a Jewish household, as children and grandchildren of immigrants, the emphasis was on getting a good education. We were encouraged into white-collar professions rather than the trades, or to at least snag a doctorlawyerbankerstockbrokeraccountant husband. My father, a civil engineer, ambitious, articulate and accomplished, was impractical and uninterested in any aspect of DIY, although he was obsessed with remodelling our house. My mother’s joke at family dinners went like this: “Q: How many Jewish husbands does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: None. We’ll hire a Goy!” Happily, I married a handy, practical, desert island Goy (non-Jew), the envy of every one of my book-smart, professional Jewish relatives. The cultural emphasis on education and the stereotyping of Jews as high achievers (intellectuals, artists, writers, scholars and successful business people) in lieu of manual labour is rooted in truth, rather than laziness: like many modern refugees fleeing war zones, persecution and pogroms, Jews have been persecuted and discriminated against for centuries –survival of the smartest likely upped the IQ level of the Jewish gene pool, and, as many vocations had been closed to Jews since the Middle Ages, Semites dominated professions we were allowed to participate in, including reviled occupations like money lending, precursor to today’s banking sector. Characteristic of every immigrant wave, risk-taking and hard work tend to lead to better lives.
A singular indulgence, even when I can ill-afford it, is a fortnightly manicure setting off a fistful of gobstopper cocktail rings. Each finger punctuated by a long, pointed, glittery gold nail, my extravagant hands may look like they’ve never plunged into dishwater, folded laundry, or typed up this month’s column, but I’m practical, of immigrant stock, and while I may rely on Tony Mulhall to fix the washing machine, I can certainly point out the problem.
(1) I’m improving with age like a handmade De Bruir Studio leather bag. www.debruir.com. (2) I’m counting the days with Kilcoe Studios frameable Rivers and Lakes of Ireland calendar at the Irish Design Shop, as before. (3) I’m sipping a nightcap from a Scholten & Baijings tumbler, www.jhillsstandard.com. (4) I’m adopting a uniform in washable black stretch suede by Róisín Gartland, The Design Tower, Pearse Street, Dublin 2. (5) I’m breaking bread with a walnut chopping board by Coolree Design for the Irish Design Shop, 41 Drury Street, Dublin 2. (6) I’m seeing the world in a new light in Blake Kuwahara frames from Optica, 6 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. (7) I’m wrapping up in classic camel from STABLE of Ireland. Choose from the purest linen, wool, cashmere and alpaca.
Balfe Street, Dublin 2. (8) I’m handling practical matters with cashmere-lined lambskin gloves from a selection at Paula Rowan, Westbury Mall, Dublin 2. (9) I’m guiding loved ones home with hand-rolled candles by Beeswax Candle Makers, made in the heart of Ireland. @beeswaxcandlemakers
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