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.
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.
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.