Rebecca Armstrong: Every little helps, yes, but so do washing machines

FreeView from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

Shoppers and commentators with a keen sense of Schadenfreude
have been huzzah-ing for the last few days over Tesco's seasonal
slip-up (its value is down £5bn because of over-expansion, lack of
investment in existing stores or because it's the supermarket
equivalent of a moatful of hungry piranhas, depending on who you
listen to).

Meanwhile, I've been taking a longer view on the pros and cons of Tesco Metros, Extras or Superstores. That's because the book I'm reading at the moment, Among the Bohemians, a history of the early 20th century's arty crowd (written by bona fide boho descendent Virginia Nicholson, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell) has given me a new insight on housekeeping, 1900s style.

"Shopping for food was in some ways easier than it is today," writes Nicholson. "The corner shop – fruiterer, butcher or fishmonger – was still all-important. Groceries were generally delivered, even in rural areas, by establishments who took orders by postcard.

"In some cases the proprietor himself would attend the mistress of the house once a month and take instructions in the drawing room over sherry and macaroons."

It sounds rather civilised. That was how the middle-class matrons – even if they did believe in free love and naked poetry readings – rolled back then. But now we're time-poor and more women than ever work, we're less likely to be able to have a tipple and a polite titter with the grocer. I'm quite glad I can nip into Tesco and its ilk on the way home from work. No, Tesco isn't very nice on lots of levels, but with its epic opening hours and even in-store Post Offices, we might love to hate it, but we still flock to its stores. Last week also saw dispatches from the cutting edge of technology, AKA the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which had me thinking about the proto-hippy housewives of the last century. The event was stuffed with hi-tech products designed to take the drudgery out of cleaning. Automatic vacuum cleaners, fridges that monitor the freshness of their contents, washing machines that can be remotely switched on with a smartphone.

Compare this with the lot of our early 20th-century sisters: "Housework took all day – and no wonder. Until well into the post-1945 era, many British women were still using cleaning equipment which had barely evolved... Until the advent of automatic washing machines, washday was – exactly that: a day devoted to washing".

We may have lost our local shops, but thank Christ we've gained gadgets that mean we don't have to spend all day, every day, scrubbing.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game