THE week started with a bang. No sooner had I thrown the dog's muddy harness into the washing machine and hit start, than a perplexing beeping noise began, sounding like R2-D2 from Star Wars attempting to drunkenly warble karaoke.

Next came an ominous snap, crackle and pop (sadly, not the aural delight from a certain breakfast cereal), followed by a loud thud emanating from deep within the bowels of the machinery, sending me scuttling for cover.

I peeked out from my hiding place to see the digital display screen go blank. At which point the washing machine suddenly whirred back into life and started pumping water into the drum of its own accord. I frantically pressed the off button but to no avail. It had gone rogue.

I looked around to see my collie Moose quietly observing proceedings. "Your harness is stuck in there," I told him. His expression was one of indifference. He didn't care if the washing machine was on the blink. With the dog walking harness locked inside, that made him a free man.

Meanwhile, I was contemplating the bigger picture. Aside from a towering pile of dirty laundry unwashed, there was the dawning realisation that I would have to allow an engineer into my house to fix the broken machine. Another human. A stranger.

It's the kind of thing I wouldn't have thought twice about a few months ago, yet now the prospect filled me with dread. No one other than myself, my husband or the dog had crossed the threshold since lockdown began.

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The morning of the big repair saw the engineer arrive wearing gloves and a mask. In jig time, he had fixed a fault with the control module, promised to order a separate part needed to brighten up the display, and departed. I had a functioning washing machine.

Well, for a few hours, anyway. It then broke again. The drum stopped spinning. The display screen flickered and faded to black. I tried turning it off and on again. Nada. Farewell old friend.

Which is how I come to find myself washing socks and knickers in the kitchen sink and ruminating if this is the return to a traditional, bygone era that everyone has been waxing lyrical about lately?

Perhaps I should get myself a scrubbing board and a hand-cranked mangle. I could certainly do with the workout – my lockdown atrophied arm muscles have ached for three days after a mere 10 minutes wringing out water from sopping wet clothes.

Mostly, though, it has left me in a curious headspace, flitting between stoicism and crippling fear which, in my worst moments, has me fretting about some accidental trace of the virus lurking in a hidden nook of the kitchen, ready to wreak havoc.

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It is a potent reminder that we live in uncertain times. Whenever it seems like I'm on some semblance of an even keel, everything shifts, and I wonder if I will ever feel normal again.

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