A plastic bowl in the sink

NOW look, I am no longer going to suffer people coming into my kitchen and turning their noses up.

I am not ashamed, nor am I some kind of pervert. I just feel comfortable with a plastic bowl in the kitchen sink.

It’s useful. It means I can… well, fill it with water, for a start, without having to put the plug in.

They pop in for tea and you can watch them as their eyes scan the kitchen in an idle, tea-drinking sort of way – until they hit the sink.

“What’s that doing there?” they demand, in a voice that suggests the cat has left something unpleasant in it.

“It lives there.”

A bewildered pause, followed by, “Why?”

Good manners prevent me from telling them it’s none of their bloody business, but I might as well get it over with…

It’s a Pom thing. In my case, an ex-Pom thing. If you went to England you could scour the land and find every stainless steel sink lined with its compulsory plastic bowl.

And if you ask them why they’ll say, defensively, “Well, it’s useful.”

Like tonsils or appendics, I suspect – there’s a certain satisfaction and grudging relief when the little sods are taken out.

My mum did it. In fact I don’t think I knew there was a sink under the plastic bowl until I was 17. I thought that if you took it out you’d leave a big hole (people who make assumptions from this about how often I did the washing up are not wrong).

I wish I could claim immunity from criticism on the grounds that it’s a tradition thing that goes back generations, but plastic wasn’t invented before my mum, so that won’t work.

I asked her, once, after a particularly heavy day of smirking visitors.

She said, “Well, it’s useful.”

“Yes, Mum, but what for?”

“Er, well, you can… put water in it…”

I am forced to admit that it appears to be another English absurdity that does not bear scrutiny without making the entire nation look like a bunch of half-wits. Like ties.

In our house we fill the plastic bowl — we call it the washing up bowl — with water. We wash up in it, then we carefully lift it out – and pour the water down the sink.

A Pommie friend defended her plastic bowl by suggesting it saved the potato peeling from going down the plughole, but so does on of those little round sieve things.

To be brutally honest the only value I can see in having the damn thing is in case the cat does something unpleasant in it.

But I’m not giving it up. There is an entire plastic bowl industry out there that will collapse if the English abandoned this endearing little habit. One has one’s civic duty and supporting the plastic bowl economy is a perfectly reasonable way of doing it.