I promise I haven’t made this up – someone somewhere in the world is charging people to spend 30 minutes inside a fridge. The idea is like a sauna, only colder. Your body comes out renewed and invigorated, and no expensive shower gel is involved. They charge a lot of money for this, and, apparently, celebrities will pay. But here in Kiruna it’s yet one more thing that’s free. Stepping out the door into anything below minus 15 is a tonic.
You’re looking doubtful, but, believe me, it is. That’s not to say you can’t overdo it – there is a limit, depending on your clothing – but in small doses I challenge you to find anything of equal value in terms of a body pick-you-up except perhaps a dip in a cool lake on a summer’s day.
So it seems to me altogether appropriate, in this place of cold therapy, that our choice of equipment for tackling some of the daily bed and breakfast chores should be a cold mangle. We found one in the local charity recycling shop, for 200 SEK. A cold mangle has a rotating roller that is driven by electricity. You use it on your washing when it is dry – there is no water involved, and the material is flattened purely with pressure. I suppose we had hopes of finding a hot mangle, to ease the ironing duties that had assumed such massive proportions since the opening of the b and b. But if no hot mangle was available (and by all accounts, very pricey to buy new), then a cold mangle would have to do. So we bought it.
We did not have high hopes. However, one run through of a cotton sheet for two minutes and I was in ecstasies. If you’ve never seen or felt an old cotton sheet put through a cold mangle, then this is something else you are going to have take my word for (or come here and sleep on one). The sheets come out really flat and soft. They don’t look completely uncreased though – the aim is not for luxury hotel advertising pictures but for a high quality surface to sleep on, and this is it.
I read on an American weaving website that the reason a cold mangle works so well is that it relaxes the fibres rather than agitates them. I think we can all relate to that.
Now before you all rush out to buy one, a few notes of warning. I’m not sure you can buy them anymore – you’d have to find a secondhand one. They’re also probably more available in Sweden and the US than elsewhere (we like our linens neat…). But most importantly, a cold mangle will not work on your average modern sheet. Cold mangling works best on linen, but also on very good quality natural fibres like cotton. The reason my sheets are in seventh heaven are because, like me, they have reached a good age, and they were very good quality to start with.
We have a very good store of sheets which Rolf inherited from a great aunt in western Sweden. (Imagine that – people used to inherit sheets! What chance is there of that happening with your latest purchase from IKEA?). They are mostly still in very good condition, wonderful quality cotton, and many of them embroidered with the initials of his great aunt Elin and her husband Carl. Later sheets that he inherited from his mother even have Rolf’s own initials embroidered on them, though sadly not mine. I don’t like to reveal these too much when I make the beds – you never know if people would regard it as charming or a bit creepy, so the initials are usually tucked away under the top mattress.
And another small secret. Some of our sheets have very very small holes in them. I think for sixty year old sheets, this is to be expected. Some of these holes are beautifully darned (not by us). I don’t think any guests would notice – after all, they are snuggling up to a cold-mangled old cotton sheet – but if they ever did, and if anyone ever complained, I think we might just have to close the bed and breakfast.