Written for the Big Issue 6th March 1999
In case you don’t know, the names of the days of the week are pagan and metaphysical in origin. They are named after celestial beings, mainly Norse, but with one Roman god. So Tuesday is “Tyr’s Day”, Wednesday is “Woden’s day”, Thursday is “Thor’s day”, Friday is “Freya’s day” and Saturday is “Saturn’s day”. Tyr is Woden’s son, the Norse god of war. Freya is Woden’s wife.
By the same token, Sunday is the Sun’s day and Monday is the Moon’s day, both of which are celestial bodies which were once worshipped as deities.
So every day of the week has an underlying metaphysical meaning.
Monday is the worst day, being named after the moon. The light of the moon is simply reflected glory, of course, and moonlight tends to bleed the colour out of things. The moon is connected to lunacy, to moments of dread and confusion and to the urges of the unconscious. In the Tarot-deck a crayfish crawls from a dismal pool while two dogs howl and the moon cries bitter tears. Maybe that’s why Mondays always seem so bad.
Traditionally Monday is washing day. Hence the expression “Blue Mondays”. The blue comes both from the blue dye that was used to whiten whites, and from the fact that it makes you feel blue to spend your whole day scrubbing dirty washing with a wash-board and soap, and then wringing the stuff out with a wringer afterwards. Fortunately these days we have the advantage of automatic washing machines to help out with this onerous task. Well some of us do, anyway. I do now, but I didn’t at the time of this story. I used go to the launderette.
I did consider buying a washing machine. My friend Dodge said he could get me a second hand washing machine for fifty quid, his father-in-law supposedly being a second hand washing machine dealer. Only he forgot. I reminded him, but he forgot again. So I started to think it was probably one of those dodges he is nicknamed for, after his habit of always dodging the question. I started to think that, actually, he couldn’t get me a washing machine after all, and he just didn’t want to admit it. His constant “forgetting” was just a convenient way of not having to say no. After that I enquired about hiring a washing machine instead. I didn’t want to buy a new one as I lived in rented accommodation. I thought that a rented machine wouldn’t be too expensive, and that it would save me the bother of having to move it when I moved house later in the year. Have you ever tried to move a washing machine? They’re loaded with concrete.
I was wrong. It cost more to hire a washing machine than it would to go to the laundrette. The launderette is far cheaper. But it gives you something to do on a Monday morning, doesn’t it, sorting out the washing, and then taking it down the launderette. It’s a way of reflecting on your week.
So that’s where I was on this particular Monday morning: in the launderette, listening to the half-baked banter of the launderette attendant, as she made comments about the newspaper she was reading while smoking a fag. That’s one advantage the launderette has over owning your own washing machine. It gets you out of the house.
The launderette attendant was talking about some Italian bloke who’d won £30.6 million on the Italian state lottery.
“How much?” one of the customers asked.
“Thir-ty-point-six million,” the attendant repeated, emphasising each syllable with precise relish. “He even predicted the order the numbers would come out in.”
The customer said, “how did he do that?”
“Dunno,” she said. “I wouldn’t be working here if I did.”
Meanwhile I was watching my washing shuddering round in the old tumble drier. In the front there was a pink sheet and a green shirt. The two items of clothing completely filled the circular glass screen, twisting round and round each other in a kind of pulsating embrace. I thought that the way the pink sheet and the green shirt wound round on opposite sides looked remarkably like the Yin and Yang sign: like two differently-coloured tadpoles in some strange spinning union. It was my makeshift metaphysical moment, there in the all-too physical launderette. And it reminded me of a time when I was in another launderette, a few years earlier, when I’d ended up in a metaphysical conversation with one of the other customers.
This was in Glastonbury in Somerset. You have metaphysical conversations all over the place in Glastonbury, even in launderettes. The guy was fiddling the tumble drier by putting a 20p coin into one of those extra-thin plastic bags corner shops and green grocers used to supply you with. He was stretching the bag very thinly over the coin, placing the coin in the slot and turning the handle several times before pulling the coin out again. I was watching him, though he was trying to hide it.
“How did you do that?” I asked.
“I shouldn’t tell you. Some kids taught me how to do it,” he said, looking guiltily over his shoulder. “Is it bad Karma to steal, do you think?”
“I dunno. Maybe. But maybe it’s not such bad Karma when you’re ripping off the rip-off merchants,” I suggested. “Who knows?”
He seemed relieved I’d given him the excuse.
“You really think so?” he said. “Only I’m worried about my Karma. I can’t afford to use the driers otherwise.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you,” I said. “What’s Karma anyway?”
“It’s the cycle of cause-and-effect,” he said. “A bit like this tumble-drier. Round and round and round.”
Well I tried fiddling the tumble-driers too, all these years later in the Whitstable laundrette, when the attendant wasn’t watching. Only it didn’t work for me. There must be a knack. Either that, or I already have bad Karma.
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