x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Scraping the bottom of the barrel for my last clean clothes

I had brought suitcases stuffed with as many clothes as possible from Dubai to Cambridge, to avoid having to do laundry for as long as possible. And eventualy, the clean clothes were clean no more ...

I finally got around to doing something that I’ve been dreading for a long time: my laundry. I had brought suitcases stuffed with as many clothes as possible from Dubai, to avoid having to do laundry for as long as possible.

Going to university confers a degree of independence upon you, which is great, as long as independence means getting up whenever you like (but sadly before 8.15am, when you have to head out for lectures). Other things: remembering to buy groceries, having to peel oranges myself, doing laundry – those aren’t so great.

The dirty clothes began piling up, far exceeding the capacity of my puny little laundry bag. I took to putting them in a basket; when that filled up, I shoved everything behind the curtain. I sincerely hope our lovely housekeepers, who come in every day, didn’t peek behind the curtain to unearth the gigantic mound of festering stockings.

It got to the point when I started conducting sniff tests. If I’ve only worn the dress once, for a couple of hours out to dinner, that counts as clean, right? Fate caught up on me as I opened the wardrobe to unveil the last sparkling pair of clean jeans.

Of course, something as mundane as doing laundry can’t be simple and easy to understand. There’s a whole section in our freshers’ handbook dedicated to explaining it. First, you need to buy a laundry card from the porters to activate the washing machine. “Each card is £5 [Dh30] and has 10 credits. A wash is two credits, a drying cycle one.” Resigned and unsure, I trudged to the Porters’ Lodge, which is staffed by jolly men in black bowler hats who are our go-to point for any crisis.

The next step on the quest for a squeaky-clean wardrobe was getting some washing powder. The supermarket didn’t just have washing powders, though: it had fabric softeners and liquitab boxes and geranium-scented soap bars and eco-friendly products whipped up from strange herbs in Amazonian rainforests. I bought one of everything; no harm chucking the whole lot into the washing machine.

What I forgot was the washing powder, but the Persil liquitabs would do. They’re squishy packets of gel that you throw into the washing machine instead of filling up the tray with powder. The plastic casing dissolves in hot water, expelling the detergent inside. It was fun bouncing them around like a stress ball before they made my hands horribly itchy; the hazard symbol on the box did say “Irritant, keep out of reach of children”, as I saw later.

It was a job exporting everything from my room to the underground laundry room, inserting the laundry card and shoving in the clothes, liquitab and assorted washing products. The machine wouldn’t start for ages, then suddenly roared to life with an earth-shattering growl that gave me the fright of my life. The clothes came out moist from the dryer, and, unfortunately, all bright blue. I knew I should have washed those new Stradivarius jeggings separately. At least tomorrow I will smell of roses. Or geraniums, at any rate.

The writer is an 18-year-old student who grew up in Dubai

artslife@thenational.ae