My aunt likes to burn incense in her house because she thinks it smells good. Like me, my mother, or much anyone else in my little clan of relatives she certainly has no time to indulge in the concept of the supernatural. But her house has this slight exotic quality which is best underlined by the smell of burning incense.

She also has the washing machine that we use. Once weekly, Mark or I pack every scrap of dirty cloth, clothes, and linen and drive over to her house for a few hours to do the laundry. It is a point of contact, where we get to see her and she can have a chat with us, and for that reason none of us have followed through on the idea that maybe we should get a washing machine of our own.

Auntie’s house is big enough to allow her to stick the washing machine down in some corner of the house where it’s not in the way, but she still keeps it in the kitchen like most English people I know. That’s why these laundry visits means piles of clean or dirty laundry on her kitchen table and mugs of tea or coffee or wine balanced on anything else which has a surface.

Since we were going over to grill dead animal parts with Auntie today, we decided to bring the laundry, and get two things done at the same time. After confirming that there wouldn’t be lots of people who maybe shouldn’t have to see our dirty underwear in the middle of their biscuits and their cake, we brought the bags and some wine and some cuts we’d bought for this.

The high point of the evening was, of course, when someone (I won’t say who) spilled red wine over our fresh white linen. We had to put it back in the machine again, of course, and it meant that we had to stay for two hours longer. Maybe it was the incense? Maybe it was karma? Maybe it was the fat little decorative Buddha Auntie keeps who decided to intervene.

But, to the smell of burning incense and to the taste of good wine, and to the sound of Auntie’s chatter – which she is very good at – we had a lovely evening of laundry. I’m still full, even though it’s one am and we came home hours ago.

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