I've been trawling around Picture Australia, looking at an endless array of photos and pictures featuring laundry imagery. I'm quite struck by this one, Sunday Evening by Russel Drysdale from the NGV. I think it's the first Australian painting I've found with washing on the line. It also forms a nice introduction to a little series I'm going to do over the next little while, of laundry(ish) images featuring men. They don't have to be doing the washing, just somehow sharing space in the picture with it or some other laundry related item.
Sunday evening, by Russell Drysdale, 1941
It looks like they could use some rain. The ground looks parched, the tank looks empty and the tree somehwat stressed. Do you think that maybe the baby got the first go at the limited bath water and they're all waiting to go next? Or just standing around adoring the baby, as one does? I think the mother looks tired and father and son are trying to keep out of trouble.
G would like the washing line. He's always telling me that a line between two trees or posts is all you need.
Mum gave me one of her old beachtowels the other day. It's a lovely thick one with pouches and a zippered pocket at the end. I think it's meant to be a throw over your shoulder sort of beach towel. Which is just as well, as it's far too big and thick to fit into any sort of beach bag. This is also why it's been sitting on the clothes line since Thursday (I think). Not that we've had that much rain, just that I forget about it when it's dry and then it rains again just a little. Then I forget. And so on. The towel never seems to be dry when I'm bringing the other washing in. That we should have this problem... In the middle of a drought. Could I have been right afterall?
The towel doesn't really look like this either, but you would have guessed that, hey. I twiddled with the colour in photoshop elements while we were in the front room waiting for the pizza and chicken salad (for me, who is thinking about dieting again) to arrive. I wanted to catch a sense of the colour deepening in the twilight. This seemed more like how that felt, than how it really was. If you know what I mean. Although as G pointed out, all photos distort reality, even if only a little.
I picked this book up at the trash and treasure quite a while ago. It has been well loved by the look of it. Inside the boys and girls play and have all sorts of adventures. Camping, swinging on swings, snowball mischief, birthday parties and being visited in bed by fairies through the window. It's that kind of book. The girls might be carrying doll babies and washing doll clothes but they row boats, take pictures with a box camera and work in the garden too.
I love the worried look on the face of the doll and the bear, well he's just chillin'. Inspired to post this picture by one in a similar vein (but in better condition) that I just saw over at Boccante Home. Which also has a little line of washing held by the cutest pegs. I think the girl may be washing her own clothes rather than those of her dolls, which is probably why she looks a bit more serious than our girl here. What is it about a drawing of little clothes on a line that sets my heart all a flutter?
Grace just loves imitating everything we do. Sometimes she helps me with the dusting, or helps her dad with some sanding. And she howled with anguish today when dinner time put a stop to watering the garden with her new little watering can. I don't think it will be all that long before she's washing and hanging out her dolls clothes. Something I remember doing when I was a child. Not all that frequently, but it did get done.
The dreamy lyrics are from my favourite Reels album, Beautiful which was released on K-tel. I have a copy, not my original one from the eighties but one from the trash and treasure. Indeed I think I might have two. Just in case. I think song is my prefab heart?
Anyway, onto the washing and folding or lack thereof.
insert The pizza is here. Along with the coke, for bourbon and cokes.
Now it's later. After pizza and salad and bourbons and coke and complimentary chocolate mousse. The washing's still on the line. It's been there since Friday morning I think. It keeps getting WET. Although there have been a couple of moments when it's nearly been dry enough to bring in. Which would then lead to airing and folding. Frankly, I have better things to do on a preciously wet summer Saturday. Like gardening, reading and chasing a half naked child through the mud and raindrops. Lovely.
Do you ever feel like you should be introducing bloggers to each other? Every so often I, in my Mrs Washalot mode, do and low key endeavour that she is, I feel she isn't very good at it. Hostessing not being a strong point. Too much laundry to avoid. Or something. And there hasn't been much of a blogroll here either. Mainly because there really aren't that many sites out there that are laundry related. Which was originally how I thought the blogroll should go. Back when I started this I was sure that there would be other loopies on the internet superhighway writing about washing. Really, I did.
Anyway, a comment by Bec, asking "Are we a subset of society, us laundry appreciators?" got me thinking. So, my blogroll is going to be of laundry appreciators and the working title is, "Sisterhood of the Washing Line." Eek, that sounds a bit new agey for me but it's a start. Basically anyone who comments here or writes about Mrs Washalot on their blog goes up there. Unless of course, they say something hostile, in which case I shall ignore, discuss or mock as the fancy takes me.
I think I've got everyone, but if you're missing and you'd like to be up there, leave me a comment or let me know. Lurkers if you have a blog and want to be on the list, just comment. I'll also come and visit you too, although I have to say I'm a terrible lurker myself and it will probably take me ages to get the foot out of my mouth and say something.
Despite starting a blogroll and all, I still expect Mrs Washalot to be a quiet sort of place. Full of the mundane and even boring, which I kind of like. G once said that one of the things he liked about me was that I am boring. Funny sort of compliment, but I understand. I like that about him too. There's far too much pressure in this world to be interesting, which in itself I find quite tedious. Boring even. Now I'm going in circles...
The other thing that I wanted to say was thank you to the bloggers who have made a reference to Mrs Washalot on their blogs. I don't do (or understand) trackbacks so there's really no way of sharing these without giving you the links; here, here, here, here, here and here. Drop in for a visit, there's some lovely laundry words and the odd picture.
On Wednesday, when I was hanging and bringing in the washing and doing the ironing I was pondering whether the washing is more work or less work in summer. There seem to be more clothes to wash as clothes get dirter and stinkier quicker. And my rewearing strategies go right out the window. More ironing too. What fun on a 38C evening. But less time on the line. Long dry days when you can do serial loads and take a load off the line to hang the next. So less stress about getting the washing out early. No drama if the schedule gets a bit muddled. Less rehanging and airing. No dampness. Wednesday, the nappies just seemed to snap and crackle in my hands as I took them in. So there was room to hang out the washing I'd done after we returned from Highpoint. Which was dry, less than an hour later. Meaning I could iron my new skirt and wear it to work the next day.
Today in the tearoom I was talking with a co-worker who's about my age. She's thinking about having another baby. As I looked at these pictures, I thought how much I'll miss the sight of nappies on the line because it will mean that Grace is no longer a baby. I want her to grow up, of course. But I'm already nostalgic for her baby days and yet looking forward to being there as she grows up. All at the same time. Nostalgia and anticipation and wanting to be right here. I won't miss scraping but I'm sure that I'll miss the sight of nappies on the line. I find it so calming.
Being middle aged and female, you would think that I'd be used to being misheard, misunderstood and misquoted. And being a sensible shoe wearing feminist, I have no sense of humour or irony. But let's get one thing straight, Mrs Washalot is not about my passion for laundry. Ozconservative is not the first person to think this is the case and will probably not be the last. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't hate doing the laundry, but I don't love it either. Feminist or feminine, and heaven forbid that I might be both, the washing still needs to be done. And due to the fact that I'll never ever get to have a wife*, and that the pixies at the bottom of the garden have better things to do, sometimes I have to do the washing. Along with sundry other related tasks. And because we have a small child wearing cloth nappies (90% ), washing is no small undertaking. Luckily, I share my life with Mr Helpalot, who while handy with powertools and cooking with fire, also knows when the next load of nappies goes on. And if he's home, he just gets to and does it. He's good like that.
Sesame Street Finding Out Encyclopaedia The WXYZ Book, Bay Books 1982
So why do I write about laundry? It started with a picture of a wet flannelette cloth on the line. Sodden with rain, that picture pretty much expressed how I felt that day. It was winter and I was home alone with Grace during the week. Domesticity, like it does for many new mothers, was closing in on me. I had just starting blogging and was the proud owner of a new to me digital camera. At various points during the day, I started taking pictures. The very act of documenting my life allowed me to see beauty or interest where before I had only seen drudgery. Then an idea popped into my head, what would happen if I wrote a blog that was limited in subject matter, never bothered about whether it was boring to others and didn't concern myself that it had few if any readers? About doing the washing perhaps.
As I went on, themes emerged. Some quite silly, some not so. One that emerged quite early on was Who does the washing? Posts in this category touch on domestic negotiation or gender issues and stereotypes. Everyone (almost) has to have their clothes washed at some point. How this happens and who does it speaks volumes to me about all sorts of class and gender issues. Twenty-five years from when I first heard it, the catchcry of second wave feminism still rings clearly in my ears. The personal is political. The political is personal. It infuses everything we do. I often find myself thinking about how, among all the other possibilities I would wish for her, I want Grace to be domestically competent. But I would never want her to think that in a family situation that it is necessarily her job alone. So it's important than I don't think like that myself, even when it would be the easier option.
The Berensteins Bears' Science Fair, Random House, 1977
It never occured to me that writing about domesticity or even that following domestic pursuits myself might be inconsistent with feminism. I've always considered the skills I learnt from my mother and grandmother to be part of my herstory, a tangible inheritance from a long line of tough women. Every person has a domestic life, it is only women who have been defined and limited by it.
I could go on and on about the politics of domesticity but I'm not going to try and tie it all down too neatly. The best thing for me about Mrs Washalot is the meandering gentle pace, the banality, the way that she gives me another lens through which to view things. And she doesn't mind if I whinge when the domestic negotiation process falters or have a moan about the washing and folding. Indeed, I think she expects it. I like her much more than I thought I would.
Sometimes I have imagined the things I could do if I had a wife to manage the domestic front. However, it's not a job description that appeals to many men, or even if you think closely, to many women. I have huge respect for people that take on "wife work" full time. It's a big job, the pay is lousy and there's not much kudos in it. Given that neither of us has a big career to pursue, we're going for a messier third way. It's not perfect, but then nothing ever is.
Added later: In my late night rush, I omitted adding a link to Kate's post, the one that got me thinking and prompted the response from ozconservative. Go have a read here, it's brilliant.
I really don't know whether this could be counted as laundry, but today we hauled the chair of mankiness out of the loungeroom and into the backyard. It was hot and dry and the mankiness of this favourite telly watching chair was becoming an embarrassment. So much so that I really didn't like it if visitors sat on it. This chair was passed on from my mum, who got it from her mum after she died. It replaced the red vinyl chair and the bryan chair, a lovely green jason recliner that G hated. I miss the red chair and the bryan chair, but oh well. At least this one has a nice high back.
This chair was grotty when I got it and saw lots of action as breastfeeding central in 2005. Not to mention telly viewing and general lazing. Anyway after attacking it with several applications of Sard wonder spray, a scrubbing brush and detergent, all the mank is pretty much gone. The suds were sprayed off with the hose, which is probably illegal now, but I was very very brief. It dried quickly in the sun and has now been returned to it's rightful position. I think I need a new name, for it is no longer the chair of mank. And yes, I think it does count as laundry related.
Down to the last folded nappy, child sleeping through her afternoon nap. A rare treat. Sucked into watching Seven Samurai on DVD. Hot. Lazy. The afternoon sun glinting on the tinsel. Must take the Christmas tree down. Not today. What day is it anyway? I get the basket of nappies. G has folded and put away all the covers and wipeys. I get into it. Origami fold, quick as. Lots of neat piles.
Child awakes and prances around the house wearing beads she found on my dressing sideboard and an old pair of sunglasses on her head. She passes me more and more nappies to fold. I try to keep up. We get through it. Folding done, put away. More relaxing to follow.
Happy New Year, washers and folders. See you in 2007...