Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Monday was washing day. My mother would wash (by hand) at least 15 shirts, 15 pairs of socks and underpants, plus her clothes plus vests in winter, plus whatever everyone wore at the weekend - in other words - vast amounts of laundry. All would be washed in Omo or Daz, collars and cuffs scrubbed and starched, then spin-dried (we had a Creda Debonair spin dryer*) hung out to dry on an 60-foot clothes line that stretched all the way from the veranda to the summerhouse, utilising hundreds of wooden clothes pegs (which could give you a nasty nip if you weren't careful!).

The clothes line itself was kept aloft by a long, square-sectioned pole made by my father which could be extended as required. If I remember correctly, we'd also use this pole to knock down apples from our two apple trees (the one on the left grew Bramleys, the one on the right Coxes).

On Monday afternoons, the back gardens of our street would be full of flapping laundry, drying in the breeze. On those regularly grey, overcast days, a watchful eye would be kept on the weather; should raindrops begin to fall, mothers would dash out with their washing baskets and begin to rapidly unpeg the laundry and bring it indoors.

Assuming the weather was clement, the drying process would take several hours (during which tea and supper were cooked and served), and then the laundry would be gathered in for ironing. This took several more hours. On Tuesday mornings, our wardrobes would be full of crisp, clean shirts, underwear and socks, and so my father, my brother and I could go about our daily duties without fear of stigma that we were dirty or smelly. Of course, I imagined the entire process to have happened by magic, and to this day I have yet to fully appreciate the physical effort my mother put in each and every Monday to ensure that our clothes were clean.

* They still make them! Ours was white with light blue trim and a grey rubber gasket that stopped the water from getting out.

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