Richard Ord: Washing dishes and other ancient rituals

Washing machine.
Washing machine.

Want to know the secret of getting your children to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher?

Break your dishwasher!

There’s been a long running battle with our boys over their inability to get their dinner plates into the dishwasher.

They’ve got close in recent years, moving from leaving their soiled plates on the kitchen table to the dizzy heights of putting them on the bench above the dishwasher. Close, but no cigar.

All that changed last week when the dishwasher, sensing finances were tight in the run up to Christmas, killed itself. And it didn’t go quietly.

I wouldn’t expect it to go quietly. Like most of the appliances (and all of the children) in our home, it lives in a state of perpetual noise.

The dishwasher regularly competes with the washing machine in a kitchen decibel war. The washing machine usually wins.

They whirr harmoniously for the most part, with the dishwasher usually first to break ranks after an hour with a blast of high pitch bleeps repeated every 60 seconds to let you know the dishes are ready to be removed.

And when I say ready, I do of course mean ready for you to burn your fingers on the red hot plates if you try to remove them. Shouldn’t the dishwasher only bleep when the plates have cooled sufficiently to handle?

I phoned the Zanussi complaints hotline to suggest a delay in the bleeping until the plates had cooled. They were very understanding and said they would take my concerns on board, before asking if I’d ever considered trying Zanussi asbestos gloves, a snip at £4.99 and ideal for handling hot objects, like, erm, freshly dishwashed plates. Ah!

No such problems with the washing machine.

It matches the dishwasher for irritating whirrs, extends its lead with a particularly raucous spin cycle before, in triumph, letting out an intermittent bleep over the next hour to let you know the clothes have been washed.

Great. Except, for some reason, it won’t let you open the washing machine door until it’s ready. I have to switch the machine off and then keep returning until the washing machine sees fit to let me remove my clothes.

Mind games, I reckon. It just wants to show who’s boss. Anyway, the dishwasher gave up the ghost last week with a particularly disturbing whine, grind and volley of unrelenting bleeps.

I called out an engineer who gave the machine its last rites and advised we buy a new one. While we hunt down a new dishwasher, we would have to revert to the old fashioned method of washing dishes in the sink.

The kids, naturally, were agog! You’d think I’d asked them to start a fire with two sticks. I told them in no uncertain terms that, until the dishwasher was replaced, they would have to wash theirs in the sink.

Next day, I popped my head round the door after they’d eaten to find a spotless kitchen. Not a dirty plate in sight. Great. Except, rather than wash the plates, they had filled the dead dishwasher with them. Out of sight, out of mind. Needless to say I out-bleeped all the kitchen appliances with my reaction.

“Bleeping hell. What a bleep bunch of lazy bleep heads,” I said. Or something like that.