Ironing boards have quite an important meaning for me. I don't particularly like ironing in itself - though there's something therapeutic about reducing the creases in a piece of fabric, or seeing a wrinkly bit of material become flattened and reduced to smooth cloth through the magic of steam and heat; of course there is - but I do like the equipment.
I know this may sound slightly odd. I appreciate that. But I find a certain sense of comfort when I see an iron, or an ironing board*. Particularly the ironing board, more than the iron; though just the sight of an iron can be enough, in itself. It often depends on the mood I'm in at the time. If I'm more gloomy than is normally the case, I may need to actually put up the ironing board and do some ironing on it before the darkness fades away like so much steam into a piece of flaxen cloth.
No matter. I think it has something to do with the patterns - those majestic swirls of colour, those jarringly overexcited oranges and lime greens, those daring blobs of purple and teal - although I'd be the first to admit that you can get plain ones as well. (Don't let me be caught out twice in a week claiming that things are only available in a patterned variety when there are indeed literally dozens of plain options available! No, I've learned my lesson, all right.)
They're part of the reason, but there's something else as well - an ironing board is something that doesn't really belong in any room. When erected, it stands there almost apologetically, dangling the flex of the iron over the side like a stray trail of sputum or something lazily drooling out of its mouth; when folded up, it's still somehow out of place, all the time, unless you come across it wedged between cardboard boxes and bits of polystyrene in a cupboard somewhere, or hanging from the back of a door (I'm aware that some people have hooks that they like to hang their ironing boards from).
There's the sound of it, as well, somewhere between what you might imagine a medieval torture device would sound like slicing off someone's genitals and the more reassuring clunk of a car door being slammed, as it locks into place. Whenever I try and open/close the one at home, the cat inevitably goes scuttling out of the room, fearing imminent death. It's not unusual for my cat, who has a terrific fear of death from almost every single everyday activity you can think of, but it would appear there's something particularly fearful about the ironing board. That's strange, because I find there's something particularly pleasant about it.
What I like most about my ironing board, though - and it's important that we're talking about my ironing board, as opposed to ones I might use in hotel rooms or in someone else's house, for example - is the sense that I plucked it, many years ago, from Argos, and brought it home with me. Looking back, it's probably one of the first things I ever bought when I left home for good and wandered out into adulthood, blinking and somewhat confused, all those years ago. I remember lumbering back to the miserable place I used to live with it tucked under my arm, thinking, well, I've got an ironing board.
As well as that, in the same way that some people have teddy bears as transitional objects that have seen them through the years and psychologically replaced the mother-child bond, I've got my slightly grubby orange-and-green ironing board. I remember sitting as a child watching my mother doing the ironing, thinking something which had been explained as so dangerous must be a very adult task to do. When I bought my own ironing board, it was a way of trying to grow up a bit and carry on those things I'd learned as a child, how to try and be tidy, how to try and iron things out, and so on.
The irons seem to wear out more often than the ironing board does. I had to buy one the other day - sat in Argos, waiting for my order to come around, I realised I was at that magical moment when order 999 had been called, and now we were in new territory. I'd never been there during the reboot before, but there it was - all of a sudden we were back to order number 001. There is no 000, I discovered, and I suppose that only makes sense. I was 006, though, not 001 or 002, but I didn't mind too much. Another iron to use on the ironing board; another trip to Argos to sit around on a little plastic chair and wait for your number to be called.
And I know that when I get home this evening, and everything else might fall apart, that the ironing board, 11 years and still going strong, is still there. As it should be. My ironing board, the thing I can rely on - the constant in my life, when everything else changes.
That's why I love my ironing board. I hope you love yours too.
* If you have yet to read the most marvellous autobiography of all time, and I feel also embarrassed about having to tell you that it's this, if you haven't seen it or experienced its wonders just yet, then you will not have encountered the marvellous couple of sentences about ironing boards (and lawnmowers) therein. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that as an influence on this blog post.