Debbie And Tony's Photographs And Memories The Life and Times of Debbe & Tony from Southampton, England
The Life and Times of Debbe & Tony from Southampton, England

Washing Day Blues

So a couple of weeks ago Debbie noticed that there was a large puddle on the kitchen floor after we did the washing.   We had seen the odd small puddle before, but thought nothing of it, and even a smell of damp in the kitchen we thought was coming from a cupboard, not the washer.

Investigation (namely pulling the washer out) revealed that there was a leak inside, which had obviously been going on for some time, since the flooring underneath was completely waterlogged and going rotten.

Well, since the washer/drier is a good few years old, it’s probably not worth repairing, and since I don’t know much about washing machines, we would have to get someone in, and that’s usually expensive.  Debbie only gave the previous tenant a small amount for it when she moved in, and we are moving in a few weeks to another house that already has a washer, so there is no point in buying another one.

We decided therefore to try and make do without one until we move, but how to get rid off the old one?   The city charges about £30 (US$50) to collect items like washing machines, and it won’t fit in the back of my car, so Debbie had a brainwave and we advertised it on Gumtree (a UK equivalent of Craigslist).   That worked well, so several days later someone came and picked it up for free, and since they know what they are doing and it’s mechanically sound as far as we know, we both got a good deal out of it.   What did surprise us actually was the number of responses that we had to our advert.  It seems like everybody wants an old washing machine for free these days.

Since we don’t have a washing machine until we move, we have two alternatives, either wash by hand or go to the laundrette.    We decided to wash by hand for two reasons, firstly with my not having a job the laundrette works out rather expensive, especially to dry the clothes, and secondly you do meet some rather “special” people in places like that! It’s boring and dirty as well, especially over here, so washing by hand in the kitchen sink it is.

The last time I saw clothes being washed in the kitchen sink I was a small boy, and my Gran was the proud owner of a Mangle at the time, a gadget that was capable of squashing fingers flat if they somehow got between the rollers, however a Mangle did squeeze an amazing amount of water out of the laundry, and I assume the inventor was mentioned in a number of women’s nightly prayers and did also earn a fortune if he ever patented the idea.

But a Mangle we do not have unfortunately, so it’s necessary to try and wring as much water as possible out of each item of clothing, one at a time, and this doesn’t half make your arms ache.   I do assume the inventor of the twin tub had a patent for his device, and was also included in a lot of women’s prayers as well, but sadly for us right now it’s back to the old way of washing.

I do have a lot of sympathy and also praise for women who had to do the washing years ago.  Without a mangle or spin drier, it’s impossible to get most of the water out of the clothing, and I think most of us forget just how much water actually weighs.   When I think that years ago women used to carry their clothing down to the river to wash, then lay them out on the rocks to dry, and carry them home, I have no doubt that their arm muscles must have been pretty powerful.  No wonder husbands were quick to buy them washing machines, or whatever device became available.  I can quite imagine that this wasn’t just because the women wanted them, it was because no husband wanted to have to live with a wife who had more strength in her arms than him.  I wonder just how many poor husbands got a severe beating over the years from those washer woman’s arms?

So, this morning, like a few others in the last two weeks, we have had to do our washing by hand.  This morning Debbie did the washing, while I grew extra muscles from just carrying the laundry basket outside to the washing line.  I then had to wring as much water out of each item as I could by hand, then hang them up to dry.  By the end of just one basket, and that doesn’t include sheets etc, my arms were aching pretty bad, and it took me a good half hour when I got back on here before I could bend my fingers properly to type again.   Of course with it being October, although it’s sunny outside, we don’t get enough sunshine and warmth to fully dry the clothes, so they will have to be brought in to dry on the airer and on the radiators overnight.

I do find it curious coming back to England where we still hang our washing out on the line to dry, whereas in many places in the USA people just use a tumble drier.   It does seem a shame that especially in Florida where you have so much lovely sunshine that you can’t hang your washing up outside, but despite the talk about being green and saving energy, people with washing hanging on the line to dry would spoil the look of the community… Seems a pity that appearance is a lot more important than helping save the planet!

Well I will bring this to a close before it becomes an epic and goes on to a second volume… and if I had a glass in my hand right now, I would raise it up and give a toast to those washer women of days gone by who worked really hard just to keep our clothing clean!  I bet they had their fair share of Washing Day Blues…

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