Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: My lesson in the (spin)cycle of life

Our picture shows a still-traumatised and grief-stricken Newell, trying to come to terms with his lo

Our picture shows a still-traumatised and grief-stricken Newell, trying to come to terms with his loss. Picture: HILARY LAZELL - Credit: Archant

Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: My lesson in the (spin)cycle of life

A Hotpoint Electronic 800 9512, I had grown very attached to it. I first moved into my admittedly, unusual house in early February 1999.

After a lifetime of renting and house-sitting, I scraped into home ownership aged 45 just before the housing market went too stellar for me to have done so.

I live in a Victorian maisonette comprised of two floors above what was once a pub archway. I have therefore no front door and no ground floor.

One advantage of this is that I very rarely get pestered by salespeople, scamsters or wandering religious theorists.


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Everything which is currently in the house, including an upright piano, has had to be lugged up a narrow back staircase, or else hoisted in through a first-floor window - after first removing the window.

There wasn’t much money to spare when I moved in. Almost everything which I bought, therefore, was second-hand, including the washing machine.

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I had never bought a washing machine before but given my money and size restrictions, it seems that I bought rather well.

Admittedly, my needs were small and my use of it was careful. I never used it on anything more than a 40-degree setting.

Very large items were laundered professionally or washed in the bath. Only once did I overload the machine. It was the sight of my then-small daughter pointing frantically at it that I’ll never forget. I was alerted by a terrible thumping sound. I whirled around to the alarming sight of the machine attempting an ungainly tango across the floorboards. Towards me. I lunged at it and switched it off before it pulled itself free of the pipes. I never overloaded it again.

Somewhere after this incident, Cliff enters the story. Reasoning that I ought to have the machine regularly maintained I combed through a trade directory. There under all the big firms, was a modest advert for a one-man outfit who repaired machines. An old-money type of chap, Cliff was a retired Electrolux service engineer. He was great. He turned up on time, fixed stuff and sometimes, fixed some other stuff which I didn’t even know was stuff. That was about sixteen or so years ago. He comes about once a year and when he is finished, looks dolorously over his specs at me and says, “ Well, it might do you another six months or a year.”

Last week, however, I knew we were in real trouble as the Beast went into its final spin with a sound like an Apache helicopter landing in my kitchen. After a scary few minutes it finished its spin and I called Cliff. A day or so later he looked at it. I was working at my desk when he appeared in the doorway to announce, “The axle has broken.” I knew what was coming next. “It’s dead?” I asked, disbelievingly. There was an awkward silence.

That evening, out of some kind of morbid curiosity, I went online, tapped in the washing machine’s model number and, as so often happens, up came a strange website. It was washing-machine pornography of a sort. There were just loads of pictures of old washing machines. No reason given. I scrolled down. Up came a picture of my machine. The model concerned was issued in April 1986. A mere thirteen years later, I came along and bought a reconditioned one. Last week, thirty-one years after it came off the factory conveyor belt, it finally died. I mean it was just so sad. We’d been through so much together.

Her Outdoors could never understand the regard in which I held it.

“Why don’t you just get a new one?” she asked again. “It looks horrible.” I just couldn’t, however. Cliff and I had been keeping this thing going for almost eighteen years now. I remembered accidentally putting a small hole in the wall when dragging it up the stairs the year I moved in. I didn’t want to risk that again. That’s why I called Cliff back.

I thought it better to disassemble it in-situ, then carry it down the stairs in bits. It seemed kinder somehow. I now stood under the archway looking at its empty case, with the drum and the blocks standing beside it. Cliff went round to the car park to get his car. “I don’t suppose...” he asked “...I could have the motor from it, could I?” I didn’t even have to think about it.

“Of course you can,” I replied. The idea that the motor from my faithful old bus of a washing machine might help to keep another vintage machine alive was of some comfort to me, especially at this time of year when a lot of washing machines have to work so hard. A new one is arriving soon. But it won’t be the same. People have been so kind.

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