‘The Corner-Shop & Niagara Falls’

I was just doing the washing-up. Thinking, meanwhile, a little about what I might write about today in my Blog. Then of course, the answer came: ‘the washing-up!’. I was also thinking about writing about  a creative project that I just completed, that has taken about three years to complete, a project I am very satisfied with and proud of etc. but of course, the washing-up is just as important, and probably more-so, when you think about it.

I must say, I have had a long and special relationship with washing-up, as well as a long and special relationship with striving to equalise phenomena, to avoid hierarch-ising things and events and experiences.

Once, when I was unemployed and lonely and pretty much financially destitute, I received a postcard from a friend who was on a very successful tour of the United States. The postcard showed Niagara Falls and I looked at it on my way to the corner-shop to buy a 0.5 litre container of milk for my tea and cereals. I remember writing in my sketchbook ‘The Corner-Shop & Niagara Falls’, just placing them side-by-side like that, and, in doing-so, somehow equalising them.

You might find this hard to believe but I have actually exhibited photographs of my completed washing-up in a major, publicly-funded art gallery, as part of a publicly-funded touring exhibition. I’ve also posted pictures of it on Facebook and received between 50 and 100 Likes.

A long, long time ago, someone (I can’t remember who), somewhere (I can’t recall where?) told me that they had once, long, long ago (they couldn’t remember when or where) met an old, old “gypsy lady” who told them that the right way to do the washing-up was to start with the things that go inside your mouth (cutlery) and next wash the things that touch the mouth (cups and glasses), and then things that are progressively further and further from the mouth, and from the body as they are used – ending with the pots and pans.

Ever since then I have adhered to this system, while also noting that, prior to this I didn’t have a system at all. Ever since acquiring this system and method – something that can be repeated on every occasion – I’ve found doing the washing-up to be far more enjoyable and satisfying, whereas prior to acquiring this system it was irksome and something to be avoided if possible. Previously it was something chaotic and that invoked chaos (dirt, abjection) and was carried out with a sense of either reluctance or a kind of pious pride in my own sense of self-sacrifice.

This might be interesting, in that it points to the value of system per se and of repetition and method (e.g. like a weekly Blog post, of about the same length, posted at about the same time, and on the same day, every week) in anything we do. So, it may be worth seeking out a rationale (like that of the “old gypsy lady”) and a corresponding method, for anything that we do that is important (and this might just be EVERYTHING THAT WE DO).

Interestingly, once I had a reasoned and repeatable system and method for doing the washing-up I started to notice other formal elements involved in it, like, for example, the fact that I am almost always washing-up roughly the same group of objects (resulting from the same two peoples’ meal, with obviously slight variations for each meal, and each day, and each season) and these objects are mostly symmetrical and monochrome (white bowls, white mugs, glasses, metal forks, stainless steel pans etc.), and that same group of objects always has to be balanced or stacked on the drainer in some way that they face downward and somehow all hold together without tumbling – so a certain structure results that has both a certain look and a certain logic.

The most successfully symmetrical arrangement (a carefully considered neo-Gothic composition) was the one that gleaned most Likes on Facebook when I shared it with Friends. Meanwhile, the photos I displayed in the public gallery, looked more Modernist as they called-upon the audience’s taste for an asymmetrical arrangement of symmetrical monochrome elements (more Malevich or Bauhaus era Kandinsky).

Anyway, (I’m never quite sure what role these ‘Anyways’ play in a text, but here it seems to point towards a slightly shoulder-shrugging sense of evaluating what has gone before while not promising very much more of interest to come here before I conclude), as I said, I was going to write today about a supposedly ‘big’ creative event in my career, but instead I have written about something apparently banal and everyday but which is in fact perhaps more far-reaching and important to all of humankind.

I hope it helps in some way, and it’s surely true that, whenever we wash-up dishes we are connecting to the whole of mankind in doing something we all have to do, and which, if we didn’t do it, would cause problems of hygiene and ill-health that could quickly become a concern for us all.

Perhaps next week I will write about my supposedly ‘important’ creative project, but if you want a sneak preview please follow this link (N.B. you don’t have to pay to simply listen to the music you will find there):






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s