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Joe Crocker 04-28-2022 08:18 AM

Flann O'Brien considers the dishwasher
The Sink Is Your Only Man

Myles Na gCopaleen / Flann O’Brien / Brian O’Nolan considers arguments around the dishwasher

Do you know what it is? Do you know what I'm going to tell you?

I do not.

Your electrical dishwashing machine is not at all what it's cracked up to be.

Is it not?

No begob it sairtintly is not. Nor is it a betther thing than sliced bread.

Do not get me started.

There was I bent over it and me with me back (the arthreetus) heavin out the heavy stuff that the other half fills it with.

And why would the other only half-fill the machine?

Ha ha. A good wan. But I spoke no hyphen. Pay attention now. There I am doubled over liftin and sortin and banjaxed be the backache, when a sharp insight shoots through me.

A spasm or an epiphany?

What, I wonder,… what am I doing down here gettin hurt and bothered when I might be up there cool and cucumbered using the sink?

Presumably, because the automatic dishwasher is labour-saving, quicker and more efficient than washing the pots by hand?

Listen till I tell you why the dishwasher is not anny of them things and why the sink is your only man.

Your dishwasher…
1) …saves no work. You take your dirty dishes to the tap to swill off the lavins, and then rummage around by your knees to see if you can’t find a place to put them. And of course you can’t because it’s still stuffed with the dishes from after the last big feed. You re-house that lot and start on the new lot. It begins easy enough and slots are found for the first few breakfast bowls. But before long space is short, and the sink still half full. So, you pull out the racks, re-arrange what’s on them, hoik out some of the bigger baggage, and repack. There’s still stuff left but with a bit more jiggery-pokery you have it all in, laceratin a hand on the upturned sharps in the cutlery basket. The hunt is on for a tablet. You find a tablet but still need your teeth to savage it out of its wrapper. The hunt is on for your teeth. A hard squint at the rinse-aid indicator does not tell you if it’s full or what. And the salt hole is somewhere underneath, calling for the rack to be lifted out entirely. In the heel of the hunt, you shove it back in again, failing to marry wheels with rails, only to be teased by the tinkle of breaking glass.

2) …saves no time. If all that faffin were not enough, …the three dimensional geometry …the fierce puzzle of angle and inclination and every piece shown to its seat, if you folly me…you finally get to the point of switchin on. Except that it has no switch o’course but it does have a… menu. Lord preserve us can we not skip the canopies and get onto the main course?

Well if none of us is tempted to amuse our bouches with the pre-rinse programs perhaps we should pass on.

Now you must choose between your boys Eco and Auto and similar classes of things that for all I know about them, could be in the Gaelic. Annyhow, there’s none of them take less than an hour and a half and more like three. Time-saving my Erse! And if that won’t take you to the fair, then another button offers to delay the whole business by another hour or three or nine!

3) …does not wash the dishes. The only dishes that you can be sure of comin out clean are them as went in clean.

I counted them all in and I counted them back out again.

Forget about your roasting dish and stew pot. And don’t be talking to me about scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes pans. There’s not a hope of anny of them fellas comin out presentable. Even a smear of porridge can cake on stubborn, an overlooked cornflake harden ceramically.

Refractory in every sense

So when you come round to the emptyin, you have a whole new job on your hands, checking for the baked on bits, the stains left in the rain shadder, the scummy puddles in the bottoms. And no use slippin the rejects back in with the next lot. It’ll take elbow grease or power tools to get them lads back into circulation, and no mistake.

Yerrah! Less of that sort of thing. Neff off, says I. The sink is your only man.

A compelling argument, cogently put. But there are some small advantages to be found in this miracle of kitchen technology.
1. A dishwasher is a handy hidey- hole in which to keep dirty dishes from prying eyes.
2. If it can’t do a decent job on dirty dishes, then it will at least lift almost clean crockery to the elevated state of the squeaky. The squeal of fingertip against dishwashered glazeware will goosebump the backs of necks in the farthest corners of the household. The ting of fingernail on a machine-cleaned wineglass sings clear and crystalline as a choir of angels

But luckit, if it won’t wash the dishes, how can you (stand there and) tell me it’s a dishwasher?

Perhaps it is merely a matter of nomenclature. Let us not beat about the Bosch, nor stoop to Miele-mouthings. Given the inevitable disappointments in store, the proper name for this box of false promises must surely be …The Wishdasher.

And there, after much exertion, I rest my case.

A hard case indeed. Let me help you with it. Begob, here’s me bus!

Joe Crocker 04-28-2022 08:28 AM

Not entirely sure why I'm posting this.

I wrote it some years ago and recently rediscovered it. At the time of writing I was in a grumpy old man fit of pique with our dishwasher and I had also been re-reading Flann O'Brien's Cruiskeen Lawn. My head was filled with his voice and the above rant was the result.

It amused me, but I think anyone unfamiliar with his pseudonym Myles Na gCopaleen will be non-plussed and unamused. And anyone familiar with the master's work will be appalled at my presumption in trying to imitate him.

Hey ho.

John Isbell 04-28-2022 03:35 PM

Hi Joe,

Well, it reminds me how I love Flann O’Brien, so that’s good work. I like the sink is your only man as title. In the US, you might run into appropriation questions, if you’re not Irish. I think you’ve got more than something of his difficult voice, though, and so, thanks for the read.


Joe Crocker 04-28-2022 06:02 PM

Thanks for reading John. And I’m glad you found things to like about it.

Well I guess it is dangerous ground these days to use a regional accent and mannerisms for comic effect. And maybe this kind of humour is no longer funny.

In my defence I will say that the Irishisms are pretty much all taken from the Myles columns themselves. But then again we are talking about the 1940s – a long time ago and a different world. For me it is offensive if a caricature demeans the subject and the subject is portrayed as inherently inferior. I hope the main character in my piece is not seen as inferior and in fact I tried to give him the best arguments -- the ones I actually argue myself. When I read Cruiskeen Lawn I am totally besotted by the Irish voice and find myself adopting that voice in my normal conversation. I find it very infectious. I am not Irish, but my mother is and I have a genuine love of things Irish.

John Isbell 04-28-2022 08:18 PM

Hi Joe,

I think your argument is better reasoned than appropriation arguments tend to be in the US, in my experience, though arguments can be made that say, calling Asian Americans a model minority is limiting and wrong.
My bottom line is I enjoyed this voice a good deal and it reminded me of how I love Myles na gGopaleen. Thank you.
I am of course actually Irish myself, as Foil Arms and Hog helpfully point out:


Joe Crocker 04-29-2022 04:00 AM

If you are a Myles fan then you may have come across Eamon Morrissey's monologue "The Brother". There used to be a a good recording of it on YouTube but I can't find it now. I did find the following version, very grainy and sound out of sync, but for all that, still brilliant.

(And the Foil, Arms and Hog links were much enjoyed)

David Callin 04-29-2022 01:22 PM

Joe, I am not unfamiliar with his pseudonym Myles Na gCopaleen, and I am plussed and amused. I think it's great (or really very good).



John Isbell 04-29-2022 03:18 PM

Joe, just had a chance to watch some of the Morrissey. It’s lovely. My wife just pointed out how rarely I repeat a phrase in my verse. Not Morrissey’s case!


John Riley 05-02-2022 01:16 PM

Joe, I don't know what to say about the appropriation argument. I'm sensitive to it but it can also be ridiculous. To say one can't be influenced or even use what is found in another culture is silly. It's our era, though, and I understand it comes after decades of blackface and tons of other denigrating things. I do find this funny. Check my name and you may figure out which wave of immigration my "people" came over on. My wife's family is also of Irish heritage and her parents, I swear, acted as though we were lazy fools when we put a dishwasher in our house. A waste of money, it was. Her mother found peace washing the dishes and looking out the window above the sink. Is that cultural, I don't know. I've had At Swim-Two-Birds on my shelf for years but haven't read it so can't comment on how close you are able to model his style. I do find this fun to read.

John Isbell 05-02-2022 03:14 PM

At the end of the day, the appropriation argument risks reducing our existence to tiny little bubble-windows on reality in which we are only allowed our own solipsistic experience and no understanding or empathy for others in the vast universe of existence. I find that vision deeply repulsive, and so I rebel.


Oh and John, At Swim-Two-Birds is magical.

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