The Lockdown Diaries | Week 13: In Which Everything We Own is Broken

I’m going to open this week’s diary entry by presenting you with a short list of all of the things that have broken down /temporarily stopped working in our house since the UK lockdown started:

* The electricity

* The water pressure

* The car

* The internet

* The dishwasher

* The tumble drier

* My brain

So, yeah, it IS, indeed, a short list, but it’s also pretty much everything we were depending on to make lockdown even vaguely bearable, really, which has made us feel a bit like we’re on some weird kind of Hunger Games-style survival show, where the producers are all, “OK, they’ve proved they can survive without ever leaving the house, so now let’s see if they can do it without heat or running water, ‘cos that’ll be a laugh…”

Thankfully for us – and for everyone having to read these diary entries, for that matter – none of these breakdowns happened at the same time, and all but one were fixed relatively quickly, which is why you’re only just hearing about them now, instead of in the form of several long, hysterical blog posts at the time. They were all, however, just a little bit stressful when they did happen, though, because, I mean, what are you supposed to do when you’re not allowed to leave your house, on literal fear of death, but everything IN your house decides to start breaking down? We couldn’t get someone to come in and fix all of the broken things, and we couldn’t just head out for a few hours until the electricity – or whatever it was this time – came back on again, so each of these events was yet another reminder that things are different now, and that staying home doesn’t necessarily mean staying safe.

But anyway.

Bloom and Wild flower subscriptionAs I said, all but one of the items on my list got fixed relatively quickly – all except for the tumble drier, which, this week decided that it had had enough of drying clothes, and would now be returning them to us even wetter than when they started. Now, of all of the things that could break down right now, the tumble drier is obviously one of the least important ones, so file this under “Things That Are A Bit of a Nuisance, Really,’ rather than ‘Things That Are of Earth Shattering Importance,’ but, of course, it has been a bit annoying – not least because we currently do at least 452 loads of laundry each week, and it’s hardly ever dry enough to hang things on the line.

This week we’ve had torrential rain every single day, so we’ve had to resort to cranking up the heating, and basically just turning the house into a sauna from all of the steam coming off the piles of wet clothes/ towels/ bedding etc permanently draped over the radiators. Something has to give, folks, and, unfortunately for me and my anxiety, it looks like that thing is going to have to be my insistence on not allowing anyone to enter the house. Imagine me as Gandalf, here, standing at the door shouting, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” to a confused looking washing machine repair-person. Because it looks like that’s what’s probably going to happen.

The thing is, the tumble drier is still under warranty. And we can’t really afford to keep the heating on all summer, just so we can dry our clothes. So, Terry is firmly in favour of just calling the repair company and getting it fixed. I, meanwhile, am less keen on this plan, on account of the fact that it will most likely kill us: and I know that because, this week Terry got another shielding letter from the government, reiterating that he is highly likely to die if he comes into contact with another human being, and informing him that he should ideally remain in solitary confinement until the end of July.

To be fair, the letter does go on to say that Terry is now “allowed” outside to exercise once per day, but makes it clear that exercising TWICE per day, say, would probably kill him, and that contact with The Others definitely will. I’ve double-checked, and there’s no clause saying, “Don’t allow anyone into your house, unless your tumble drier breaks down, in which case it’s fine,” so while logically I know that someone wearing a face mask, and only interacting with the tumble drier itself, is probably NOT going to spread Covid-19 to every surface in the house, I’m nevertheless haunted by the idea that, two years ago, we bought a washing machine/tumble drier that was one day going to kill us. Which, honestly, is EXACTLY the kind of thing that would happen to us, isn’t it?

I know that sounds insane, obviously. This, however, is one of the reasons I’m so incredibly pissed off with the way that shielding has been handled, with people like Terry regularly receiving letters and texts that are literally designed to terrify them into staying indoors and having no contact with anyone, even if there’s no actual risk involved. I hate that we have to break “the rules” to sit in my parents’ garden at a two metre distance from them, and I hate that I feel guilty about doing it, even though I know perfectly well that the “rule” we’re breaking is actually just advice, and that it’s advice that fails to take into account our individual circumstances.

Most of all, I hate that something as simple as getting our tumble drier fixed is now something that’s going to require planning, and face-masks, and the complete decontamination of our kitchen and hallway, and that it’s something that I’m going to worry about for at least 2 weeks after it happens. I hate it, because I know this is how health anxiety starts, and, while that ship has well and truly sailed for me, I can see a future coming, in which tens of thousands of people are too scared to get their tumble driers fixed, because they have a letter telling them that if they allow anyone who doesn’t live with them to cross their threshold, they will be playing Russian Roulette with their lives, basically.

Anyway. This was really just supposed to be a short post about our tumble drier, but I’ve somehow managed to turn it into a giant rant which is almost guaranteed to get people messaging me to point out that some people don’t even HAVE a tumble drier to break, imagine! And, yes, I know that, of course, so please read this post in the tone of someone who is well aware that there are much more serious things happening in the world right now, but who also understands that it’s possible to care about those things, AND want to be able to remove all of the wet towels from her radiators sometime this year. Yes.

How’s your week been?


P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

books by Amber Eve
  • Hannah


    Could you move the tumble drier outside just before they arrive and plug it in via extension cord? They would have to come in the house then? And could work on it outside! Just a thought 🙂 obviously if its installed in a way you cant relocate I’m sure it will be fine but though that might ease your worry about it if you can avoid them coming in!

    June 15, 2020
  • Amy


    I feel this post in my bones! I’m in the shielding group too and our internet has been going down regularly. We contacted our ISP who said it was an issue with the telephone line and they’d send a BT engineer. Our action plan:

    1. We cleared everything possible in the path from front door to the telephone point.
    2. I imagined everything they might do, and tried to account for it (i.e. they’d put steading hand on the sofa when they kneeled and so put a dust cover over it).
    3. I hid upstairs while Wife answered the door and she stayed 2m from them at all times.
    4. They replaced the wall plug (some moisture had got into it) and Wife watched them leave to note what and where they touched.
    5. Wife wiped down all surfaces they had touched with bleach (including the floor!) and I waited a further 20 minutes before coming down to ensure the bleach had time to work.

    Having to over-think everything like this is challenging and exhausting! I hope this gives you some ideas for being able to get repairs done. Oh, our repair person wasn’t wearing a mask, I suggest ensuring you have a disposable one so that if your person shows up without you can insist they put it on. We don’t have any masks because shielding, but Wife assures me they didn’t cough or sneeze while they were here. The bleach would have caught any droplets from talking.

    Good luck!

    June 15, 2020
  • last year's girl


    Just… sending you love, Amber. I know that we’re only seeing a snapshot of the anxiety you’re living with right now, but you’re doing brilliantly. We had to get our washer-drier fixed a couple of weeks ago – it’s in the utility room by the back door, so easy to let somebody in without them having to go in the house, but it all turned out absolutely fine and it’s worth it to not live in a sauna. Hope it all goes well x

    June 15, 2020
  • Justine


    I bought a free standing spin dryer as they spin at twice the speed of normal washing machines, it’s amazing how much extra water they remove, and drying indoors if needed is so much easier and quicker. I would think that would save you quite a bit on your electricity bill. So far we have been very lucky no breakdowns or problems with supply services, I’m touching wood as I say that !!!! Let us all hope things can return to normal as quickly as possible.. Best wishes to you and Terry.

    June 15, 2020
  • Lila Athanaselis


    It does sound like a military operation ????

    We have storage heaters and they have been off for a few weeks. I have been hanging clothes on clothes horses for 26 years and if the heating is off it takes 2 days or more to dry.
    We have a small electric heatet and when the temperature dips at night, which seems to be a regular thing this month ????, that heater goes on.
    It seems to be one of those horrible rainy Junes that just won’t go away ????☔

    I wish we could get a sunny day, never mind week, just a day ????????

    June 15, 2020
  • Sierra


    I went through the whole “house-sauna” thing before. We didn’t have a dryer in our rental, and the house was just impossible to heat, so everything was constantly damp. You’ve got my sympathy!

    I do hope you’re able to have it repaired quickly and mitigate the amount of stress in the situation. Even if the dryer isn’t as a big a deal as the electric, sometimes one to many things is just too much. Hoping for the best!

    June 15, 2020
  • Corinne


    Just a thought – may depend on your cash situation – but we don’t have a tumble dryer and use a dehumidifier to dry washing overnight. It’s not one of those passive ones but plugs into the mains. We bung everything on the clothes horse in a small hall (and festoon the door ways) and run it for a few hours overnight. It’s not a cheep solution (about £100 on Amazon) but is probably on par with a dryer running-costs-wise and could tide you over without humans in the house until it’s safer for you.

    Hope things are sorted for you soon.

    June 15, 2020
  • Anya


    I was very used for stuff to take around 2 days to dry. That s mountain weather for us. My first washing machine with tumble dryer was a miracle ! And even in the summer it s bad to have heat plus humidity so i totaally feel you. What i do i use my office room as laundy room for a couple of days while i work in the kitchen. Not ideal obvs 🙁 hope you get it fixed. They re also rather expensive those buggers

    June 16, 2020
  • Richard


    Hi I hope you have managed to solve your dryer problem. As a fellow shielder I feel your pain. I live with my wife and grown up children and have to keep my distance from them. The ‘advice’ from the government is confusing at best and makes you believe that the the virus is like pollen, blowing around in the wind. This of course isn’t the case and after about eight weeks I started to go out for excercise as the process of shielding was making me ill. I obviously keep my distance from people although this is sometimes difficult as some people seem oblivious to the situation. If you drive somewhere and go for a walk keeping away from people and avoid touching things just how are you going to be exposed to the virus? I had been suffering with chest pains for about three weeks and took myself to A and E. This in itself put me in a state of high anxiety and they kept me in hospital for a day as it turned out my blood pressure was extremely high. I believe this was a direct result of shielding , the lack of excercise, constantly worrying about catching the virus as my family still leave the house. After coming home from hospital I spent the next 14 days waiting for symptoms to appear which fortunately they didn’t. The point is with the infection rate relatively low at the moment this might be the window of opportunity for shielders to leave the house. Who knows what will happen to the infection rate now things are being relaxed. A vaccine may never be produced what then? Permanently locked away? The government are going to have to do better with their guidance for the extremely vulnerable without increasing the already resident anxiety.

    June 20, 2020