The spring is a magical time in Finland; as the sun kisses the frosty land, slowly melting the snow and a layer of dog shit usually around two foot deep, and each of our thousands of lakes is suddenly freed of ice, shortly followed by millions of birds returning to their shores to nest… so the first Finn crawls out of their cave – and immediately seeks to start a fight for the best position at the local rug-washing station.
Washing of the rugs is an important task for the Finn, the alpha and omega of good housekeeping. Although wearing shoes is strictly forbidden inside Finnish homes as to keep our rugs clean, allowing only a rare exception: a baptism, birthday or a funeral, those jolly summer parties we all love and cherish and whip out the good china for. The rugs must be washed annually.
Dirty or not.
Finnish rug washing in Tervo and mangling in Pirkkala - images borrowed from their sites respectfully.
Before moving to Scotland and later to France, I too engaged in this national sport. And why not - it is made very easy for you as even the smallest villages would have a station, usually outdoors and near a lake, where you can take your carpets, (handmade by grandmothers if you’re a traditionalist or bought if you’re city scum) scrub them clean with pine soap, mangle and hung them to dry. Like most decent people with an acute sense of good housekeeping, I like my rugs cleaned annually.
As we joined our lives and possessions, James, who is to thank for most of our furniture, contributed three stunning carpets to our shared home. My inner Finn roared and rumbled as I discovered these rugs have never been washed. Gross. So unhygienic. So English! Three years and a dog later, the carpets remained unwashed and my Finnish needs unsatisfied. There was nowhere to go, no mangle and they were too heavy. Then my mother came for a visit and gears started to turn…
Conveniently, I was feeling under the weather on strong antibiotics, having just hurt my face and rendered one of my hands temporarily unusable in an incident involving a stray feline, so it was up to James and ma to get the washing started. As the nearest rug station is around two thousand kilometres away, we made our own from two architect’s tables, a pressure washer and a few bars of Marseille-soap. My mum scrubbed as James wielded the pressure washer, starting from the dirtiest rug as I napped upstairs. It took a bit of grunt, I was told, but the results were truly stunning. This blond rug with red, white and pale blue accents had gotten so dirty it was nearly all grey to the point where you could hardly distinguish the pattern. After the wash, Finnish mum-style, it was like brand new.
James, seduced by the power of his beloved pressure washer, also cleaned up parts of our exterior walls that had gotten mossy over the years, again, with a glorious effect. I woke up from my nap just in time to capture few snaps of the action and take credit for the job in the eyes of our elderly neighbour who probably thought we were barking mad as the French, together with the Brits, hardly wash their rugs. Perhaps they just really love shake and vac?
Bof - Je ne sais pas.
And speaking of our neighbour, although she sneaks us greetings from Jehova every now and then, I really like her and often practise my gardening vocabulary on her as she has the most beautiful jardin I have ever seen. It has got the perfect balance between a traditional potager with an addition of tomatoes, salads, pumpkin etc. and a flower garden with roses and perennials. We have a few pots of cherry tomatoes, patisson-squash, strawberries and herbs ourselves and they do give us a good crop but wouldn’t sustain us for the nuclear-winter if you know what I mean. Anyhow, I like my gardening like I like my men: easy and low maintenance. Having said that, it is also great to see some of my gladioli finally starting to flower. The bulbs were planted a tad bit late this spring and my expectations for a flower-show this summer were pretty non-existent.
Fresh from the garden...
As it stands we are waiting for a hot and sunny weekend to finish up the last of our rugs. The woollen ones take a day or two to dry completely, but it’s worth it – if not for anything else other than my peace of mind. I had this funny moment when I caught a glimpse of our freshly scrubbed piece of carpet drying in the garden as the sun slipped behind a wispy cloud: just in that moment there, somewhere far away, my old granny looked down and smirked. The dirty skank washed hers never.