The ironing board is on the landing. This may seem an odd place to keep it, but it’s solving a long-standing problem: the apparently bottomless ironing basket.
It’s not that I dislike ironing: in the right frame of mind, it’s very soothing. Research shows that repetitive tasks provide similar benefits to meditation. Knitting and jogging also qualify. But lately the view from my utility room of a dreary, browning, post-snow garden has deterred me from taking up my post at the ironing board. And the distinctive aroma of over-wintering guinea pig, which decamped to the adjacent worktop during the cold snap, is a further disincentive.
As I hovered in the utility room the day before spring term began, trying to summon up the energy to tackle a week’s worth of school uniforms, an inspiration flashed into my head. For this I must thank the author Susan Hill. At Tetbury’s Yellow-Lighted Bookshop’s wonderful Book Festival last summer, she talked about her latest book Howard’s End is on the Landing which describes the year she spent rereading books stashed around her house.
Like her, I have many books on my landing, which my husband recently redecorated. I took the opportunity to reorganise the bookshelves, showing the contents off to best advantage. Now at the top are decades of diaries, the earliest dating from when I was 8. Below are displayed precious and obscure books from my childhood (anyone else remember Torchy the Battery Boy?), through to the bittersweet teenage comforters such as Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. Next come the dog-eared favourites from my university days. Well, some are less dog-eared than others: one day I really will read all four volumes of Richardson’s Clarissa, bought at vast expense in a wild moment of undergraduate optimism. Then there’s the vast collection of hobby-related guides acquired in my leisure-rich child-free days. These haven’t seen much action since I acquired a child, whose own bedroom is now bursting at the seams with books.
I never tire of looking at my bookshelves. The display on the landing will be a lovely backdrop to my ironing. The location offers other conveniences: a thick, warm Indian rug under foot; the adjoining bathroom where I can easily top up the iron’s water chamber; nearby wardrobes for immediately hanging up the ironed clothes (far better than turning the kitchen into a holding bay). I’m convinced that on the landing, I’ll make great headway through the ironing basket – at least as long as I can ignore the comfy rocking chair in the corner, an ideal place to curl up with a book.
But for now I’m determined that this refreshing change of scene will restore momentum to the task in hand. What’s more, I’m thinking of applying the same principle to other stalled proceedings. So once I’ve finished typing this, I’m off to do my tax return in the bath. Must press on….
(This post originally appeared in The Tetbury Advertiser, February 2011)