07Mar2012

Now, About Those White Shirts, Child of Mine

Shirt Neck

Like many 11-year-old boys*, even those who aren’t travelling the world, washing does not figure highly on my spawn’s list of things to do.

He’s pretty good about the twice daily toothbrushing. Punctilious about post-bathroom handwashing — he even uses soap!

But the full strip and scrub? That’s up there with, well, handwriting on the “thou shalt not pass” scale.

After protracted negotiations, we’ve settled on a positively Victorian approach – AKA once a week, on Sundays.

And, no, in case you’re asking (which he will be), swimming DOES NOT COUNT.

On the plus side, this routine is marginally better than the annual bath favoured in the Middle Ages, and does stop the hair smelling too sheepdip-esque – he is, thank the lord for small mercies, too young to get stinky anywhere north of the feet.

On the down side — well, I’m wondering what I was thinking when I brought two white shirts to Egypt. Following half a term in the local primary school, he was the proud possessor of two of them.

So I figured – waste not, want not – he can wear them as a cover-up against the sun.

They do, also, look very smart. At least on day 1.

Z in head-dress and white shirt in the desert.

But, seriously. We’ve been travelling longterm for more than two years now. What was I thinking?

“Why are you giving me a new shirt when I’m going quadbiking across the desert?” he asked yesterday, mildly aggrieved.

“Because the other one is even dirtier than the clothes the Bedouin girls who sell bracelets wear. And if you as a tourist are dirtier than child street-sellers that reflects badly on me as a parent,” I say. “I’m a single mum in a country where that’s unusual, and one that just voted in an Islamist government. I don’t want to look any more crap than I have to.”

“But we’ll just have to wash it,” he says, in tones that imply that he, personally, will be pounding said item on stones and scrubbing it with laundry soap until his fingers bleed.

“I know,” I say. “Now put it on.”

The lifestyle in Dahab, land of the lotus eaters that it is, is not conducive to cleanliness, at least not for boys.

Nor does my cheapskate nature help. Back in Blightain I bought, as is my habit, the cheapest high protection suncream I could find in the supermarket (I’m not a great believer in suncream marketing BS.)

Unfortunately, it turned out to be blue-green. As did the shirts…

Even a sedentary day spent chasing cats and kittens, lounging on cushions, reading, writing and playing backgammon seems to involve a great deal of dust and sand. You can, perhaps, imagine the amount of dirt acquired quadbiking the desert, scrambling through wadis and scaling sandstone peaks.

And — whisper it — Egypt’s fine mezze have a remarkable tendency to distribute themselves around the shirtfront. What with chasing the cats away and all…

But the kicker is the night-time. It’s early enough in the year for Sinai to get pretty brisk in the evenings. So once night falls, the restaurants spark up firepits or braziers.

Which my spawn feels dutybound to tend. With all too predictable results.

Grubby shirt cuffs.

Anywise, I presented our laundry yesterday, communicating in sign language that the white shirts needed to be washed separately and hotter than the rest of our clothing. (Well, it was obvious that the shirts needed to be washed hotter. It was the rest of the wardrobe I was worried about.)

The guy looked in utter horror at the cuffs and said, “Eat?”

“Fire,” I said, hopefully. “My son likes fire.”

*: And, yes, I need to change both my blog title and my About page.

13 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    On the up side, he’s probably too old to give spontaneous hugs, so the dirt will stay on him. Right?

  2. Theodora says:

    Umm, I guess there is that. I do have to request hugs. And, I wear black most of the time now, so it doesn’t show…

  3. i wear black. you need to switch him over! it’s the traveler’s rule, LOL.

    • Theodora says:

      He likes wearing black. The problem is finding *plain* black clothing – without logos or characters – in child sizes. We spent 3 hours wandering around Balinese malls looking for a plain black T-shirt and had to buy him a men’s XXS stretch black T-shirt vest in the end.

  4. ailsa says:

    You just made me feel much better for having no clean clothes for my children in China today, thank you! Dirt makes clothes thicker therefore warmer, no?

    • Theodora says:

      Why, yes, Ailsa! Dirt has all sorts of marvellous qualities. I believe it is also excellent for their immune system and makes a fantastic urban camouflage… ;-)

  5. Anne-Marie says:

    Roll on more dirt! What a shame I never photographed YOUR school shirts (nor ironed them)…The trouble with this comment is that people might begin to guess where your housekeeping standards came from.

    • Theodora says:

      Ahem. Our guide in the desert suggested we just deposit Z, shirt and (once-white) trousers wholesale into a bucket of bleach…

  6. Amy says:

    Hmmm, nearly-11 year old Peter has taken to sleeping in his clothes to save the time involved in dressing and un-dressing, and looks more than mildly agrieved when he is caught out at this. My sympathies.

    • Theodora says:

      I tried that as a kid too, LOL. Today is the weekly bath day. “Look,” he says. “That agreement was made in England, where standards are different from here. I don’t need to wash for another year…”

  7. Catherine says:

    Looks like my son’s school shirts which some non-parent of boys decided to make white!

    • Theodora says:

      Seriously? They get like that in Australia?! I don’t seem to remember him managing that level of filth in the UK.

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