Further prayer-email during Bethlem treatment.
‘You know what it's like if you have OCD. Or if you're lucky you don't.
‘One simple wash, which the rest of us probably execute at least twice a day without even thinking about it, becomes the most momentous event of your life.
‘It is your first night performing solo in the West End... when you forget your lines. It is jumping out of a ’plane at thirty thousand feet, when you are terrified of heights. It is the day your fingernails are slowly pulled out by the Gestapo. It is also your visit to Buckingham Palace to collect your OBE.
‘It is all these, rolled into one.
‘And you are expected to perform this utterly exhausting and adrenaline-flooded ritual, not just once in your life like any of the rest of us with something so momentous, but on a regular basis.
If you can find the courage and energy and can face it in the few short hours of day which God gives for washing in.
‘Your laundry, even more apocalyptic.
‘So there they are, all in the same house, all with the same lunacy, all wanting to use the same one and only washing machine.
‘And Bink needed to wash her clothes.
‘But another inmate, Sue, had her clothes in the machine. So Bink had to wait, for the best part of the day, while Sue's wash went on and on and round and round and inside out and upside down – if she's anything like Bink, through the most aggressive, un-ecological, maximum boil programme available – before Bink could put her wash in in.
‘Who, naturally, would not dream of touching Sue’s laundry. Because if Sue is anything like Bink, touching her laundry could blow her out of orbit onto Mars.
‘Eventually and at last, Sue’s extremely over-washed laundry comes out of the washing machine and goes into the dryer.
‘Which means Bink can now put her clothes into the washing machine. Though she will of course have to wait for Sue herself to be present to take her clothes out of the dryer before she can dry hers.
‘Now… Jane was in the queue after Bink.
‘It's not difficult to follow! Concentrate:
‘Three women. All with washing obsessions. All living together. (If Sue is saner than Bink but madder than Jane, what is the name of the bus driver?)’
‘By the time Bink has also sent her long-suffering clothes through a zillion hour wash and is ready for Jane to use the washing machine, Sue has gone out.
‘Leaving her laundry in the dryer.
‘Bink can’t take her own wash out unless she puts it straight in the dryer. Without letting it touch the rubber sealant around the door, obviously. Because if it does, she would have to start all over again.
‘But Sue’s clothes are in the dryer. And Jane and Bink don’t know what it will do to Sue if they move her wash. She could be all right... or it could just drive her over the cliff and away with the goblins. Even more away with the goblins than she is already.
‘So Jane and Bink stand looking at the machine, debating and deliberating for most of the evening, wondering what to do so they can move Bink’s wash and get on with Jane’s.
‘I picture them, hour after hour, like two cats transfixed by a goldfish in a bowl though with rather less to look at, staring at the tumble dryer and conferring and wondering whether they can take the huge risk of opening the door.’
[Bear in mind I wrote this is 2006. Now in 2018, science is beginning to realise there may be whole new undreamt of levels of terrifying tedium the human race can be forced to endure as punishment for a referendum.]
‘In the end they decide to go for it.
‘They don’t need to touch her wash. They will just inch open the door a crack and take a look inside. Not sure what it will achieve, but hey.
‘And if it freaks Sue out... well, at least she’s in a loony bin already so there won’t be far to go
‘Guess what they find?
‘One pair of knickers. One solitary pair.
‘Goodness only knows how many gallons of water and lashings of electricity and tubs of Persil and hour after hour of the planet’s resources have gone into exhausting that one little tiny pair of lady’s knickers.
‘Which presumably needs this treatment every time it’s worn.’