Washing with dinosaurs

Despite an escaped Tyrannosaurus rex rampaging through the inner workings, our washing machine has survived. "It got into the sump and stopped the water from draining out," says the repairman. "You're lucky it didn't get wedged between the drum and the tank. It would have caused absolute carnage in there."

I can see the headline now: "Tyrannosaurus wrecks washer!" Only it's not a real dinosaur, it's a representation pressed on to a disc the size of a 2p coin.

"A theme park souvenir I took from a child," I tell the repairman, who gives me a curious look. "He was playing with it when he should have been doing Spag." The repairman's curiosity turns to alarm. "Spelling, punctuation and grammar," I explain.

James is gifted and talented in dinosaurs. He especially likes sharing his knowledge with the only person he knows who might actually date from the Upper Cretaceous. When I kept him behind to discuss the unexpected appearance of a brontosaurus in assembly, he assumed it was because I was eager to learn how palaeontologists have discovered the fossilised bones of a titanosaur that would have weighed more than 14 African elephants.

I am doing my best to make James' dinosaurs extinct. A velociraptor, an allosaurus, a diplodocus, a brachiosaurus, two iguanodons, a triceratops and an inflatable stegosaurus with a slow puncture have been wiped out and left to fossilise in my drawer. How this particular tyrannosaurid ended up in our washing machine is a mystery. Well, almost.

Now that I am teaching part time, I have been encouraged to expand my domestic repertoire. This includes doing the washing without supervision. It is a leap of faith on my wife's part: household appliances don't respond well to pleading, cursing, kicking or having their parenthood questioned. And my track record with the dishwasher isn't good either. My ability to stack efficiently and use rinse aid effectively has been judged inadequate on more than one occasion.

My failure to meet the required standards for operating the washing machine should therefore have come as no surprise. I have twice turned essentially white items into mainly pink ones by not spotting a distinctly red item among the load. But my main area for improvement is checking pockets. Removing tiny bits of tissue paper from clothing with a roll of sticky tape is a laborious task that, I am told, could easily be avoided.

Clearly my wife does not understand the mystical properties of men's trousers. No matter how carefully we remove every item from our pockets, there is always something left over. It is usually a tissue. Occasionally - and often regretfully - I have laundered money. But, as far as I know, this is the first time I've put a theropod through the eco cycle.

My wife enters the room with a washing basket and a determination to remain in charge of it. "So, what caused the problem?" she asks.

"A dinosaur," says the repairman.

"Tell me something I don't know," she replies.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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