I sometimes wonder whether the people who design domestic white and brown goods ever consider how they are supposed to be cleaned. I know that at least in theory they are tested, because back in my small company investment fund management days I went on a company visit to Kenwood, and we were taken to the product development department. But does testing extend to using the product over a sustained period and then trying to wipe it clean? Or just making sure that it doesn't blow up when switched on, and asking which design of handle a focus group prefers?
I thought this again as I tried to clean the filter of the dishwasher. It's been leaving little brown specks on the plates recently, even though I topped up the rinse aid, and the general idea of a dishwasher is not that you have to wash everything again as you unload it. The filter was completely revolting, and actually rather put me off the idea of having a dishwasher at all. Do I want water that has been in contact with this filter sprayed over utensils I'm going to eat with? Even once I'd disassembled it to the smallest parts it would break down to without actually breaking, I was left with inaccessible interstices with brown goo stuck in them. What was I supposed to use to clean it with? A small bottle brush like the ones you get with some upmarket bird feeders? A pipe cleaner? In the end I managed with my finger, a nail brush, and the skewer I keep by the sink for poking earth out of the holes in stones, plus a great deal of washing up liquid. The Systems Administrator was entirely unsympathetic about the state of the filter, saying that I did not have to clear the drains.
Cleaning the cupboard with the glasses and the overflow fridge in it was more rewarding, as I discovered a whole box of tealights I'd forgotten we'd got, and enough Price's white wax candles to last this Christmas and probably the next. The bottle of cream soda I'd been thinking we really ought to use sometime, except that I was afraid it might be too old, turned out to have been best before March 2015. In theory running a second fridge is a wicked waste of electricity, except that it is so useful for chilling drinks and holding overflow food when entertaining. I sometimes wonder if we should manage without it, but so far have resisted being that hair shirt about it. We'll need to make room in the kitchen fridge for the house sitters to store food, since they can't live here for the week without one, so our supplies of butter, cheese, and all those jams and pickles that ought to be OK at room temperature since jamming and pickling were supposed to be ways of preserving food, except that the modern versions do seem to go mouldy unless refrigerated, will have to shift into the other fridge.
I have started a list of things we need to pack, to remind us to take them and then to act as a checklist when we are packing to come home again. A decade ago I left a bath robe hung on the back of a holiday cottage bedroom door, but I've got more systematic since then. Reading lights. Some holiday lets are well equipped but some aren't. An extension cable in case we need it to plug the reading lights in. Basic spices so that we don't end up buying yet more mixed herbs and chilli powder when we've already got multiple pots of both. A sharp knife. One decent saucepan, and a flat edged wooden spoon in case the spatulas in the cottage are as revolting as our dishwasher filter was. Your own old wooden spoons are one thing, but other people's are quite another. An astonishingly large array of electronic equipment, laptops, tablets, phones, and chargers for all of them. The National Trust guide, which also has our car park sticker in it, plus the church guide, the tile guide, and several garden guides. My garden visiting notebook.
The owners of this year's cottage, or rather converted outbuilding, live on site. That could be very handy in case of difficulties, like the flat two years ago where we couldn't get the cooker to work. It was a ridiculously sophisticated cooker with an elaborate timer and an instruction book an inch thick. We both pored over the book, and neither of us could persuade the cooker not to randomly turn itself off in the middle of cooking. We ended up microwaving everything when we were not eating out, and by the end of the week neither of us wanted to see another pasta bake ready meal again for the foreseeable future. This time round we can just go and bang on the owners' door. Help, how does the cooker work?