Mary and John

Last Sunday at the market, I bought some old childrens books, quite a few of which have pictures of washing. This one is called Mary and her Family  (published by Ward Lock 1974, illustrations by Casterman 1963, 1964 and 1970).  In the first story, the children's mother has gone out, time is dragging and even the dolls are bored. They decide to surprise Mummy and clean the whole house before she comes home. Of course this involves laundry tasks. John is very helpful but Mary seems to be in charge...

 When she came home, their mother hugged them both and said, "What a splendid surprise! Fancy doing all that by yourselves. It's lovely to have two such helpful and useful children! Thank you very much!"   

Inner beauty

Last night after I wrote about our ugly laundry, I lay awake thinking about whether there was anything really beautiful in that room. As you do. I thought about whether I could take an arty shot of the green slime in the laundry trough and call it beautiful. In the garden, perhaps, but not in the laundry, no, it definitely isn't. Not to my way of thinking, anyway. Then I thought about the picture I took of the inside of the washing machine after I had run a bottle of vinegar through the rinse cycle to get rid of the soap scum. Now there, in my eyes, is laundry beauty.

Ugly is as ugly does


When I think of laundry beauty, I  think of billowing clean washing on the line or of neatly folded piles of colorful clean clothes. I don't look for beauty in the laundry room itself. Our laundry room is not beautiful. It is small and cramped. Lots of things not to do with laundry live there too. Like camping gear, excess craft supplies, Gs stash of beer bottles, cleaning tools and products, the vacuum cleaner etc. The laundry, like the shed is a tardis. The washing machine itself is neither ugly, nor beautiful. It has a job to do. We bought it secondhand when the old one stopped agitating. I wish I'd thought to see whether it had a lint filter. It doesn't.

We probably didn't save all that much buying secondhand. Maybe we should have bought a shining new one. With a lint filter. I keep meaning to ring the washing machine place and see whether we could get a lint filter. They probably have a pile of discarded lint filters lying about somewhere. It's that sort of place.

The shelf used for laundry and cleaning products came from Gs old house. The paint is bubbling and it's around the wrong way for some reason. As you can see, I am a fan of the heavy duty laundry product. I did make hippy, lavender scented laundry sludge for a while back in the early nineties but after a while my clothes just didn't look clean.  If I am going to bother washing them, I want them to not only be clean but to look clean.

Then there is the dryer. I actually think the dryer has a quaint retro charm. Pity that it is not very effective at drying clothes. It really only works if the clothes are almost dry. As I've said before, this probably defeats the purpose somewhat.

The laundry is not as bad as it used to be. When I first moved in here, way back when it was a share house, the laundry was jam packed with years of rubbish. The rubbish has long gone. G has fixed the shelving and other storage issues. In the last flurry of activity we painted it with several coats of white paint. It gets organised and cleaned fairly regularly and functions quite well despite it's limitations and the demands placed on it. But lately I've been thinking about my ideal laundry. Which would not have concrete troughs that grow slime and have to be scrubbed out with bleach. That would be just big enough to fit all its' functions comfortably. That would have fantastic storage. Maybe some color. Could it be beautiful?

Gender stereotypes in children's literature

I bought this book from the opshop for Grace to read when she's older. It's Richard Scarry's ABC Word Book, by Richard Scarry,Collins 1971 and I think it's very charming and it has pictures of laundry. But why are there only pictures of female, matronly animal characters dealing with the laundry? I know why, (insert hoary, ironic, oldtimers voice) because laundry is women's work. Always was, always will be. And the sooner my daughter learns this the better(end voice). I can feel the bitter old feminist canker souring my pleasure in these pictures, which despite the gender stereotyping, I do find quite delightful.

I guess the book is from the seventies, but then so is second wave feminism. While I want my daughter to be domestically competent, I don't want her to believe for even a moment that competence means she has to do it all. Grace and I have alot to talk about.

Rainy day blues number six

It has rained all day today. And there was a pile of washing to get through as I was at work on Thursday and Friday. G had cleaned the bathroom and washed the towels like I asked, but hadn't forward planned the washing or anticipated the weather. I think he found it all a bit stressful and was a bit down about it this morning. I have to remind myself that it is a hard ask to look after a temperamental and needy one year old and get through everything and have some time for yourself. I'm quite organised and quick at many household tasks (working in hospitality will do that) and still I struggle.

So I didn't really get a sleep in today. The nappies are hanging in the rain. The wipeys are under the back veranda.  The clothes we will need for the next few days are draped around the house and are being rotated in front of the heater. I've given up on the dryer. I think G agrees with me. It is quite useless except for things that are nearly dry anyway, which defeats the whole purpose. I'm considering buying a new one.

Peg apron

I'm a fan of leaving clothes pegs on the line. That's why we buy plastic pegs and not the prettier wooden ones. G like to put them in an old fetta cheese bucket which hangs from the line. There's a hole in the bucket for drainage, but it still gets fairly festy. A handful of rotting leaves with the pegs, yuck.

Then cruising blogland a while back, I came upon this and a bit later, this at simplesparrow. Go and check them out, they are beautiful. The comments are interesting too, lots of people not allowed to have clotheslines where they live. As I've said before, this shocks me. Anyway, back to peg aprons, these posts triggered childhood memories of my mother in her old blue dressing gown with a peg apron around her waist, hanging washing in the morning. My grandmother had a peg apron too. I remembered that my mum had made a new apron when she moved to her current home. I asked her if she could bring it over for a photo and always happy to oblige, she did.
As you can see, the old peg apron is very well loved and fraying around the edges. Mum thinks she might make a new one when she moves into her new house over this side of town. I tried it on, and it felt alright, maybe as I'm a mother now I need to carry on the family tradition and make one of my own.

Blowing in the wind

Two big loads of washing this morning. Did the nappies yesterday and everything else today. Feeling a bit panicky that the washing will fall behind while I'm at work. I keep reminding myself, it's only two days a week, only two days not at home feeding the washing machine. And on one of these days, G is home, he can do the washing and other related tasks. And the day mum is here, she'll bring clothes off the line and air or fold them. Just try and stop her.

It ended up being a very good drying day. Cold and windy with patches of sunlight. No moisture in the air at all. After lunch, I bought the washing in before we went to the supermarket. Crunchy dry.

Now I just have lots of folding and two lots of work shirts to iron. What fun I shall have.

Email humour

My beloved sent me one of those joke emails that circulate all workplaces except mine (due to rules about inappropriate use of resources blah de blah). Normally these get short shift as I have no sense of humour with this sort of thing. But by chance this time I opened the attachment & right there at the top, a laundry related image.

I guess it's funny, if you have a sense of humour, that is.

Mrs Washalot goes camping

When we go camping I normally wear my clothes (except undies) until they are very, very dirty. I keep one clean t-shirt in reserve, just in case. But I must say in most of the places we've travelled being a total scruffnut is quite acceptable. I don't often do this...
I save it all up for the odd stop in a caravan park with hot showers and electric washing machines. The photo is from Jeff Carter's Great Book of the Australian Outdoors (Rigby 1976). Notice that the man is sitting on the tailgate, probably drinking beer.

Happiness is...

Happiness is a full line of washing in the sunshine after days of dreary Melbourne winter gloom. And there was even a little breeze.

Even so, the washing still didn't dry completely, so it's airing all around the house. There was such a lot of washing that I've run out of space and will be shuffling all evening. In front of the heater, the dryer, the racks in the doorways. Then tomorrow will be a festival of folding. Arrgh. I think a nip of sherry is in order.

More about folding

During the week I have a strict routine with laundry tasks. After Grace has had her breakfast and after we wave G off to work, I put on the first load of washing. Then I check the washing from yesterday that has been airing overnight. Anything nearly dry is put in the dryer to finish off. I sort it into piles for folding. Then I fold.

On a good day Grace plays happily on the floor with her toys, scraps of material or pots and plastics she's found in the scullery. On a bad day she sits on my knee while I fold. And we listen to the radio, the local ABC. I used to listen to RRR (local community radio) but G likes the ABC in the morning and now I prefer it. I watch the day emerge through the cabinesque (G's word) windows of our sunroom out the back. Once the laundry is folded & put away, I have breakfast and Grace has porridge for morning tea.

Today being sleep in Saturday, I didn't get to the folding until the mid afternoon. It's not like the fairies will come and do it while I sleep. My dad was in the study with G doing things with the computers (thank you dad). There was no good radio and no music because sometimes I am just too lazy to put on a cd. It was gloomy.

I thought about the monotony of doing the washing and how I used to love helping mum fold, towells in particular. Because there is a right way to fold towells which G, being male, does not understand. I thought about my mothers group where sometimes we discuss laundry (I am not the only one obsessed). I thought about em who left the first ever comment on Mrs Washalot (thank you Em, if you're reading) and about how I don't think I'd be using cloth nappies if we had more than one child in nappies. And about how I would love another baby (unlikely but not yet impossible) despite the extra washing and other domestic drudery this would entail.