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

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Child Genius': A television show celebrating exceptional intelligence in childhood  

The parents of Channel 4's Child Genius might be bad, but we’re worse for watching

Anna Leszkiewicz
Richard Dawkins  

Richard Dawkins is wrong to suggest that there can be varying degrees of severity involved in rape

Sian Norris
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on