Laundry Theatre

I tell you this plainly: I am not in the best of moods. I’m in the kind of mood that can only be brought about by walking around a foreign city in the socks you forgot to pack but found stuffed in a side pocket from years ago – rough and unmissed, with a hole just large enough to fit both your big toe and lesser big toe, but not quite big enough to do it without turning them a gangrenous purple. I was in this exact kind of mood once before. I think I was in Devon.

This morning, after emerging all pink and shiny from my requisite half-hour shower, I opened what I like to call The Underpant Drawer. I call it The Underpant Drawer not because I’m ever organised enough to ghettoize my undergarments but because it’s at the very top, and is thus the first port of call, drawer-wise. When I actually do file away my clothes in the lop-sided, near-death IKEA construction in my bedroom, I tend to put everything in that one, lazy place. This probably accounts for why the ball-bearings are shot to fuck and why it only remains the top drawer because it rests heavily on the one beneath it – the one that cannot be reached without dismantling the whole precarious arrangement. I have not looked in that drawer in nigh on a year. Maybe it’s where all my socks go.

I gazed down into the dark abyss of that drawer, everything a different shade of black – this is not a florid exaggeration, by the way, as any wearer of black will surely tell you – there are degrees of black, and there are differently tinted blacks, and sometimes the only way to match them (or rather get away with not doing so) is to live in the half-light of a grim London February. I poked about in this mess dejectedly. I could see no underpants. I delved, past socks implicitly washed with old tissues, past forgotten and hastily hidden credit card bills, past this totally racist golliwog I am hiding from my landlady, and found nary a panty. I looked on the line of dry yet unfiled clothes, only to find that somebody (one Hayley Campbell, circa yesterday) had carefully picked off the pants and left nothing but pajamas to hang for superfluous days. Behind me a mountain of unwashed clothes flexed and grew in light of my predicament, rising from the ground like some sinister cotton stalagmite. And then I remembered the Spare Pair. The ‘Break Glass in Case of Underpant Emergency’ pair.

Every so often I get a parcel from my dear ol’ Mum in which she sends five or six virginal pairs of the kind of underpants I was a fan of when I was still living at home – Bonds undies, obviously – which remain the all time greatest pair of pants money can buy and I look forward to these pant-centric care packages with almost rabid impatience. Nothing sets a day off properly like new pants from your Mum – especially if they’re teamed with a new pair of Marks & Spencers socks – but one time she deviated from the plan. Wedged in amongst the regular standard-issue black underpants, like a flea-repellant tablet in dog food, was a single pair of orange underpants.

Now, as underpants go, I don’t have any particular problem with these, apart from them being marginally less comfortable than my regular ol’ faithfuls. They just don’t fit into my regular rotation. I don’t wear them on regular days because in the early morning my first instinct is to just grab whatever kind of thing I usually grab, and that ain’t orange underpants. I suppose they’d be an apt choice for Superman-ing (wearing big underpants over leggings to keep them up, ™ Clare Nightingale) though I wouldn’t do that either. I don’t save them for best: they are of a hue so blinding that at the moment of The Big Reveal they would undoubtedly be commented on, the mood killed, and the kettle would go on.

The orange underpants did have their uses, though. During my interesting tenure as part of a houseshare in an old Victorian place in Brixton, we were the proud owners of a temperamental washing machine. Mostly it didn’t work, but occasionally it would make an effort and flood the place. One day its ECG recorder beeped a sad flat-line and we turned the machine off for good. Time of death: some time four years ago.

With a collective bereavement in our midst it brought the house closer together. Saturday afternoons were spent wearing our worst clothes whilst sitting in the launderette around the corner. All five of us lined up on a bench reading our picks of the magazines provided: there was Felix, an Oxford graduate, reading the Sun’s Bizarre, and me all alabaster white and reading articles about hair weaves and Trisha in Ebony magazine. Aside from the occasional joys of watching some shifty-eyed local attempt to discreetly shove the most heinously stained personal items into a massive metal washing machine there was really nothing else to do apart from stare out the window and wonder why that garage across the road was full of hundreds of rolls of peach toilet paper packed in pyramid towers (what did they use it for?), or how did the guy who worked in the launderette, dressed in the most astonishingly white glowing clothes, manage to afford a car so expensive? It got old pretty fast. And so, to my wash of pure black clothes I would add this one pair of bright orange underpants.

For hours we would watch them through the convex washing machine window, marvelling as they ducked and dived and occasionally disappeared for a whole ten minutes before surprisingly us all with a sudden reappearance – only to watch as they got sucked back into the black hole once more like a screaming actress in the mouth of a shark. It was the moments they were gone that were the most tense. There was hand-holding, our unfashionably-clad bottoms were on the edge of that stolen park bench and there was a great bulging of our collective eyes. WHAT WERE THE UNDERPANTS GOING TO DO NEXT?

I’ll tell you what they did next. They made themselves the sole attendees at the job interview for Today’s Underpants. As I walked down the street I was convinced their high-beam orange could be detected through the cloth of my skirt. I imagined the bored builders sat on the footpath, their eyes collectively bulging as they watched the orange underpants dive betwixt my buttcheeks. My mum would be so proud.



So the talk I mentioned last week is still happening. If you’re in London tonight you should come along, sit beside the lion skeleton and watch me talk some nonsense. I’ve decided that if it starts going wrong I’ll just get my tits out and shoot myself – that way we will have delivered on the sex-and-death front and no one goes home disappointed.

ALSO: No posts for the next two weeks. This cat is going to Spain to see her Dad.

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