Dec 14, 2009

The new Prozac

By Chris Cork

Stress-busting medication? Psychotherapy? Transcendental meditation? Nope, none of them. What we all need is a big pile of ironing, preferably natural fibre garments, a good steam iron and an ironing board set to the optimum height. A water-spray might come in handy, too. Peripherals like music – an iPod being the recommended means of delivery bringing a capsular sense to the entire ironing experience — or a film are purely optional. This is where I get to divulge the secret of my mental equilibrium – and yes, it is doing the ironing. Strange as it may seem to those of you out there who loathe the very thought of doing the ironing, it has for me held the key to a calming of the savage breast and a release of pent-up tensions. Now read on…

There is something deeply satisfying about placing the well-ironed shirt on the hanger, doing up the top button and then holding it up to admire ones handiwork. The crease-free uniformity, the way in which the sleeves hang just right and the crispness of the collar producing that warm inner glow of satisfaction. Then there are those t-shirts, arranged to perfection in a square when they are finished, the circle of the neck dead-centre and then the trousers! The trousers… knife-sharp at the leading and trailing edges and coming to a vee just below the waistline now hanging next to the shirt and smug in the knowledge that they will beat the pants off the opposition at their next social outing.

My mother hated ironing. I can remember her still grumbling and cloudy-faced as she bashed and muttered her way through the weekly pile of laundry generated by a husband and four children, not to mention sundry grannies and grandpas who might be staying for a few weeks. I was experimenting with ironing my own clothes in my early teens, got the hang of it mid-teen and have never looked back. The therapeutic aspects of ironing were discovered in my twenties and now, in my sixties, a heap of un-ironed clothes is the panacea for most of my ills.

The first time I tackled the ironing here in Pakistan after we were married my wife looked on in horror and the servant practically dissolved into tears. Sahibs just did not do this sort of thing. They certainly did not do that sort of thing in Kabul, where one of the domestic staff physically tried to remove the iron from my grip so affronted was he by my actions. Sleepy Bahawalpur has been scandalised by my ironing activities and two of my (female) FaceBook friends have offered their own un-ironed wardrobe for my attention. I may just take them up on the offer.

Now I am not suggesting that doing the ironing is going to solve the world’s ills, but it is such a pacific activity that perhaps a few more men ought to channel some of their latent aggression into the smoothing-of-creases department. Introduce a pile of ironing into meetings at cabinet level, issue all generals with a camouflaged ironing board and a state-of-the-art steamer or perhaps require all violent criminals to do at least one hour’s ironing every day. Get the UN to celebrate Global Ironing Day and have heads of state conduct their business whilst pressing the missus’ best blouse and skirt. Amidst the hurly-burly of busy lives we can lose sight of the ordinary, the mundane, yet it is the ordinary and the mundane that are the glue that holds us together sometimes – and if it was not for the humble iron I would have gone mad decades ago.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan.

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