My local launderette (ummm… is that “laundromat”, in American?) has just closed down. Apparently, their rent went up, and they would have needed new equipment, and they’d been in business thirty years, so, rather than face the hassle, the owner decided to hang up his… errr… whatever launderette owners hang up when they retire… some sort of sponge, maybe? Anyway, it’s all closed up now, and when it reopens, it’s going to be an estate agency.
“No problem,” says I to myself. “I used to pass a launderette on North Parade every day, back when I worked for FoetidGoatMolesting Applications Ltd., I’ll use that instead.”
“Hmmm,” says I to myself, moments later. “I’d better check it’s still there, before I need to do my next load of laundry.”
So, off I go to North Parade, and guess what? No launderette. Big wooden things inform me that what used to be a launderette is soon to reopen. As a hairdresser.
So there I am, standing on North Parade, and passers by can hear this sound like THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub] THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub] THWACK! [sub]eep![/sub], which is me cudgelling my brain, trying to remember where, in Oxford, there is another launderette within reasonable walking distance.
“South Parade,” I decide, eventually. So, from North Parade, I head off north towards South Parade. (Look, there’s a perfectly sensible explanation…)
Northwards I trek. The deciduous trees are replaced by hardy conifers, which thin out as I reach the empty tundra on which the noble reindeer browse, before I come to the awesome frozen beauty of the ice fields themselves… what? Oh, it’s about three quarters of a mile, I just put that bit in to raise the tone a little.
Yes, praise be to the clean underwear gods, there is a launderette on South Parade.
But the whole experience set me to musing. Surely, at a given time t, there is a number n of people who want to buy a house, and a number m of people who need clean pants, and, in any sanely ordered world, m>n ? Or hairdressing: is that not also, when all is said and done, a less compelling, a less pressing need than that for simple cleanliness of person? Or any of the other businesses I passed on my long and lonely quest for coin-operated toploaders - it is easier for me to get authentic Peruvian wooden pan-pipes, genuine Lebanese cuisine, or organic wholemeal focaccia bread than it is to get my undies washed.
I mean. Well. I mean. It’s Oxford, for flip’s sake. It’s swarming with students, they can’t all rely on Mumsy and Pater to send the au pair down from Godalming to pick up their laundry. And there are lots of people - like me! - paying exorbitant rents for microscopic flats, where you can only fit a washing machine in if you don’t mind one of your children having to sleep in it. My point… I had a point when I started this, where is it? Oh, here it is… my point is that a launderette is a practical business venture. There is a market for the service. So where, I ask you, is the service? It’s on South Parade, between the Vietnamese restaurant and the Wiccan Wholemeal Plumbing Accessories shop, that’s where it is.
Hence, I am moved to apostrophize, nay, to objurgate and castigate, my fellow Oxonians. Get your damn priorities straight. Amidst the daily quest for GM-free nostril pluckers, lanzonia-flavoured decaffeinated mineral water and Fair Traded emu burgers, let us not lose sight of the homelier necessities of life, such as clean knickers. Thank you for your attention.