If you see someone perspiring into a jacket on a warm day, when everyone around them is in shirtsleeves, the chances are that they have discovered the drawbacks of minimal ironing. It seems like a good idea when you stop ironing the bits that can’t possibly be seen. Then you miss out the bits that will most likely stay hidden. After a while you are ironing the collar, the cuffs, and a six-inch strip down the middle of the front. It’s a good trick, but you need to keep an eye on the weather forecast. Nowadays we all seem to be permanently short of time, though, and any short cut is useful. One alternative, of course, is to multi-task, by doing something else while ironing. For example, you can iron whilst talking on the telephone (hands-free only – you’ve heard the old joke, but with a handset, a scorched cheek is definitely a real possibility).

Actually, there are lots of ways that ironing time can be put to good use. If you set up the board in front of the television, you can keep track of your favourite soaps with an added sense of virtue. It’s particularly fascinating if someone on the screen is ironing too, though they never seem to be very good at it. Take care, though if the TV programme is particularly gripping – serious clothes damage could result. Ironing time is also good for thinking and planning, perhaps for a laundry-free holiday (is this how nudists get their ideas?). It’s also possible to daydream about the plans you had when you were young, which definitely didn’t include hours spent at the ironing board.

Why, then, do we iron at all? Is this just another form of domestic slavery? Non-iron fabrics have existed for years, after all, so you have to wonder why anyone makes, sells, or buys clothes that need constant attention. Perhaps the answer is that nothing really beats the feeling of putting on a crisp shirt, still warm and steaming slightly. It’s just a shame that it takes so much time to get there.