Scotland Road Trip | Adventures in Laundry

Soon I will be coming to the most anticipated part of our Scotland road trip, the Isle of Skye. But first, can we take a moment to chat about laundry? Specifically, the adventure of doing laundry in the UK?

About halfway through our trip, while in Inverness and the Isle of Skye, we stayed in rental homes instead of hotels. Excellent timing for doing laundry. One would think, anyway.

Laundry Adventure, the First
Our first rental home slept 12 – 14 people.

Our rental home in Inverness

Our rental home in Inverness

From which one might easily conclude that said home would include at least one washer and dryer. Our last rental home in Orlando slept 18 and came with two, not one but TWO, super-size washers and TWO super-size dryers. But that was America. And this was Scotland.

The house in Inverness did, thankfully, have a washer and dryer. We located the front loading washer straight away. (See how I got all British on you there?) Yes, we found the washer straight away. Now it was a small washer. But that’s to be expected because pretty much everything is smaller in Europe. (Except the beers. The beers are definitely bigger.) We bought a German dishwasher a few years ago and for the longest time, I called it my mini-dishwasher. But the machine washes so well and so quietly, I grew to love the tiny little thing. So I was expecting smaller, yet good quality appliances.

But where the heck was the dryer? We figured they couldn’t possibly have a clothesline with the kind of rain they get. Finally, after searching for 20 minutes…maybe longer…we found the dryer, which had been right before our eyes the entire time. Why, you ask? Because the washer and dryer were actually one and the same machine.

Yes. I am serious. That is actually a thing. One machine that actually washes and dries your clothes. One tiny machine for both washing and drying.

Washer Dryer in Inverness

There’s the scientific wonder.

And yes. Yes. YES! They could have made room for a dryer somewhere in the 3000 square feet of house. Even a stackable would do.

We were so stunned you would have thought we’d just stumbled on an alien civilization. What? Why? How? Why? Trying to wrap our brains around the scientific wonder that is the washerdryer combo, Jean and I started to explore the functionality. We’d already come to accept that the machines…I mean machine….was small and that, as a result, doing laundry would require more time.

And we were slowly accepting that if we wanted clean socks and underwear (which, in case you’re wondering, we did) we would need to entrust our clothes to this foreign machine of the future…or the past…maybe it was new-fangled thing that went bust. I mean, a logical person would have to assume that a machine that both washes (makes clothes wet) and dries (makes clothes unwet) will have to sacrifice the quality of at least one of those two actions. Right?

OK, well whatever. We moved past that. And we started analyzing symbols and pressing buttons (come to think of it, we were kind of deciphering alien technology) and here’s the kicker guys: to wash and dry one (miniature) load of laundry would take five hours. Five hours! FIVE HOURS!!!!!! FOR ONE. TINY. LOAD. OF LAUNDRY.

HOW DO THESE PEOPLE LIVE?!?!?!

Do they have real washers and dryers in their own homes? If not, how often do they wash their clothes? Do they actually wash their clothes? Do they wear disposable underwear? Do they wear underwear at all? Do they wrap their kids in plastic? HOW DO THEY DO IT????!!!!

OK. OK. Well I’ll tell you what we did: a grand total of two loads of laundry in that house, almost entirely consisting of socks and underwear. The best part was seeing Doug’s jeans. Maybe it was the small tub and lack of fabric softener but his jeans came out of the washerdryer wrinkled like crumpled newspaper and so stiff they practically stood up on their own.

Jean and Steve opted to wait until we got to the house at the Isle of Skye. A risky choice if you ask me. Which you didn’t. But you’re going to find out anyway.

Laundry Adventure, the Second
Isle of Skye. Our house there was located on a hill overlooking a firth. Absolutely stunning views. Cute little home. Nice neighbors.

Not our house but the view from our house.

Not our house but the view from our house.

But the laundry situation? Well, the clothes line out back should have been our first clue. The second clue? Our towels…rolled up nicely and placed in our bedrooms. When I picked ours up off the bed and moved them to a dresser, I noticed they seemed a little damp. Nah, I thought. They’re probably just cold. 

We found the washer. And no joke guys…NO JOKE…it was smaller than the previous washer. More like a half washer really. Looking at the half washer from the front, it seemed normal enough, but look from the side and you’d see that the half washer was indeed only about 12 inches deep. I AM NOT KIDDING.

HOW DO THESE PEOPLE LIVE????!!!!

The dryer? Oh we found it, alright. Folded up next to the washer.  A drying rack. (In the very space large enough to house an electric dryer.) Oh and there was a hanging rack above the washer. And of course the clothesline.

Thaaaaaat explains the damp towels. After my shower that night, I used one of those towels, which provided enough absorbancy to dry my face and left arm.

Clotheslines are nice, I guess. Charming. Economical. Effective even…in places like New England in summer or the mid-west or the desert. You know…places where the sun shows her face and the sky DOESN’T RAIN 364 DAYS OF THE YEAR!!!!!

Just grabbing clothes off the line minutes before leaving the property... PC: Jacquelyn

Just grabbing clothes off the line minutes before leaving the property… PC: Jacquelyn

Let me ask you, are these people just so used to the rain that they’ve completely given up the fight? Just thrown in the towel? (Though not in a dryer, obviously!) Has dampness become a way of life for the Scots? Do they just think, why bother? I’m going to get wet again later anyway. 

Oh, we used the teeny, weeny washer. And the drying racks. And when that didn’t work, the clothesline. Which made the whole washerdryer combo in Inverness seem like a luxury appliance.

Thankfully, we had beautiful weather those two days. Even so, when we drove away toward Fort William, we did so with damp clothes in the van.

Why, Scotland? WHY?! There are better ways to live!!!

God bless America. Land of washers and dryers. Big ones. Fast ones. Separate ones.

 

Committed

As in, I should be…committed…somewhere quiet, soft, with baby pink walls and no sharp objects. Because otherwise I might hurt myself.

What was I thinking?! Signing up for an online 30 day writing class. And just three days in – three days! – they ask for a commitment. Commit to a writing practice, they say. Ummmm…ok? OK. Yeah, sure. Why not? I can do this. It’ll be good for me. And fun..no, yeah, it’ll be fun, I say. 15 minutes day, I say.

And so I do it. I write pretty freely on the topic of favorite songs and I don’t publish it because it’s rubbish and it was just a free write exercise anyway. For me, at least.

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Confessions of Library Book Hoarder

My name is Nichole and I am a Library Book Hoarder.

Why am I telling you this? Well, first of all, there are apparently no support groups for this condition. (Actually, seems like there may be a bit of discrimination going on here. I’ve already tipped off the NYT, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be reading more about it any day.) So you’re my therapy. Plus, I think it’s time I just put it all out there. You guys have gotten to know me pretty well over the years so I’m laying it on the line. One more glimpse into the life and mind of me.

Now, I know you’re tempted to think I’m making a big deal about nothing, but when a person hasn’t stepped foot in her local library for over six years because she owes over $55 in fines, you know she has a problem. And when that problem starts to affect her family, her children, then you know for certain.

The last time my 13 year old borrowed a book from the library was when she went with a friend in 3rd grade. Imagine this little peanut of a girl, long dark brown hair, clutching her library books to her chest, looking up at the librarian with wide, brown eyes – which look even wider behind her royal blue, plastic-framed glasses. Poor little girl, she’s nervous already, because she knows – even at this innocent age – she knows what’s coming:

“Oh my! Your mommy owes a lot of money to the library,” says the librarian.

“Uh…ok,” she replies meekly.

“Well, I’ll let you take these books today….but tell your mom, she needs to come in and pay these fines.”

She told me, alright. It’s the first thing she said when she walked through the front door. On and on about how embarrassed she was, how ashamed. And let me tell you, she wasn’t kidding. Now, if I so much as mention the library, she practically starts shaking all over. I think she might be scarred for life.

Great. Now I need to find a support group for my kids: Children of LBHs.

Whenever we need any kind of book or want to borrow a museum pass, I send my husband or oldest daughter with their cards. (I think that sometimes they go together for moral support.) And while they’re checking out, they wait with bated breath – will the computer cross check their last names or address with their fugitive mother/wife? Surely, alarms will start blaring at any moment, rotating beams of bright red lights will flash around the room as bars slide over all the windows and exits and members of the Overdue Library Fees Enforcement Squad, fully armed and dressed in black, emerge from the walls shouting, “Down on your knees. Hands on your head. We have you surrounded.”

By the time they get back to the car, beads of sweat cover their foreheads and I half expect them to say, “Got it…drive!”

And I have no excuse. None, whatsoever. On a snowy day, in heavy traffic, our local library is, at most, 10 minutes from my house. We have two cars (three if my daughter’s home from college). And I probably drive by the building at least once a week. So getting there is not an issue.

And, if I am laying it all on the table, then you should know that my next door neighbor and dear friend, God bless her, is a town librarian; and she has offered to return my books for me whenever she goes to work – which is four days a week. So I literally could walk 40 feet out my front door to return my library books on time. No excuse!

But you see, what happens is, I forget. And then, once the books are late, I’m embarrassed and ashamed, (maybe that’s the issue I need to take to the psych’s couch – seems a bit dramatic now that I’m typing it all out), so embarrassed that I don’t even want to tell my neighbor and the longer I wait the worse it gets. So that months later, I find myself driving to the library under cover of darkness, stuffing the evidence in the night drop, hoping to high heaven there’s no cameras on me. (Yeah, I know they’ll know it’s me when they scan in the bar codes, but there’s just something about being seen…sooo…yeah, I’m basically acting like at toddler.) Anyway, that’s pretty much what happened the last time my books were late. You know, six years ago.

A couple years later – let that sink in – a couple years later, I was cleaning one of the girls’ bedrooms and came across a Spot the Dog board book.

Wow, this looks an awful lot like that book I convinced the librarians I had returned, I thought.

Slowly, with trepidation, I turn to the back cover and there it is, in big letters: “Property of the Simsbury Public Library.” Shame, fear, dread and embarrassment wash over me and I can’t help but think, I am the worst person in the world! I have stolen a library book. What kind of a person steals a library book? Sure, I didn’t mean it. I really, really believed I had returned it. I didn’t mean to lie to the librarian. Is it a lie if you think it’s the truth when you’re telling it?

That’s when I knew that I couldn’t go to the library anymore. I had tried to reform, to change my ways, but I couldn’t break the cycle of failure, guilt and shame. Finding that book was the last straw.

At first, buying books instead of borrowing them wasn’t so bad. I owed $55 after all. But the cost added up quickly. Imagine having to BUY all your youngest child’s summer reading books. I know I don’t have to. She could use her own card. But after her traumatic encounter with the dues enforcing librarian, I couldn’t risk putting her through that again. It’s just too cruel.

Last year, my husband bought me a Kindle Fire. I love my Kindle Fire. But even the cost of these e-books adds up after a while (kind of pricey for books that don’t have to be printed, bound or shipped, but what do I know).

Then, somewhat recently, the libraries in Connecticut significantly expanded their e-book selection. (Sure, I may be 17th on the waiting list for The Great Gatsby, but I can instantly download Sophie Kinsella’s I’ve Got Your Number!) So now I can borrow books for free and the best part is…..they automatically take them back from me after 21 days!!! AU-TO-MATICALLY!  No guilt. No shame. No overdue fees. This is better than a support group. It’s medicine. It’s a solution.

Well, that was enough motivation for me to suck it up, go down to the library and pay my bill. I was half-expecting to find my photo plastered on the wall behind the check-out counter, along with the rest of the Library’s Ten Most Wanted. Good news! That didn’t happen. Nor did the librarian on duty take it upon herself to chastise me. She was rather quiet, actually, which makes sense; she is a librarian, after all. And even better news!!! If you wait long enough and let your library card expire – which mine had – you only have to pay a maximum fine of $40. So I actually saved a little over $15! That was a week ago, and I’ve already read two free, library e-books!

I know, it’s kind of sad that I have to rely on someone else to discipline me because I can’t do it myself, but at some point, a person just has to accept her limits, right?

Now, if I could only find a similar system to take away the Nestlé’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips after I’ve eaten half the bag in one sitting……..