Monday, 8 December 2008
To Mothers everywhere.
Since I began blogging several of those on my Blog List have lost a parent. I know, in the general scheme of things, we grow up aware that our parents are not going to be around for ever, but that doesn't make it any easier when it is time for them to leave us.
As I put my dirty linen into the machine this morniing I thought about my own mother and about the easy life I have compared to hers. And I am sure that during her lifetime she would have had similar thoughts about her own mother. The stresses and strains of modern living for us are very different and in many cases lead to the kind of busy life that our parents would never even have dreamt of. But in terms of sheer hard, physical work we are a favoured generation - we might choose to work hard on the garden, the decorating, but we rarely HAVE to do it.
Nowhere is this hard graft more evident than on Washing Day. Whereas I put my linen into an automatic machine, switch it on and go away to do something else - here is an outline of my mother's washing day in the 1940's in the very rural fens of Lincolnshire.
7am. Fetch buckets of water, two at a time for balance, from the stand pipe in the village street (we had no water laid on to our house). Father had already left for work. When I was old enough I would sometimes get the water for her while she did the next job. 7.30am. Light the fire under the copper.
Washing would be sorted, starch and "blue" mixed and various dolly-tubs, wash-tubs, dolly pegs, rubbing boards etc. would be got out ready. Once the water in the copper boiled she would be away.
Materials were not the easy care of today - shirts were often twill or even flannel which took a lot of washing and drying. Father had a clean starched loose collar every morning and a clean starched white handkerchief. Large items like towels and sheets would be folded and put through a huge wooden mangle to make them easier to iron. Then the whole lot would be carted down to the lawn and hung out to dry. If it was poor weather there would be the extra chore of lighting the fire in the wash-house and stringing the clothes across for drying.
When water has to be carried you soon learn not to waste it - so the end of washday would see the scrubbing of wash-house and kitchen floors. Then there would be the ironing. With only gas lighting there was no electricity so ironing was done using a flat iron heated on a trivet over the fire.
My mother lived long enough to have a "twin-tub" washing machine. It was her pride and joy and was treated like a major domestic god. David's mother lived long enough to have an automatic but for a long time refused to use it as she thought it wasted good water!
In the time it has taken me to scan the photograph and put this on my blog, my washing has finished. Most of it is easy-care, non-iron. The Aga in the kitchen ensures that it will be ready to put back in the drawers by tea-time.
So this post is a salute to all mothers and to their mothers before them. It is not so long ago - certainly within the memory of David's grandmother - that women in this village in The Dales washed their clothes in the beck, Oh how times have changed.
I am just off to make myself a coffee and read a chapter of my book. Another reminder of my mother. If I had picked up a book during the morning my mother would have said "Haven't you anything to do?" - does that strike a chord with you?
If you are interested the people in my photograph as as follows:-
Top left: Maternal grandparents. Top right: Paternal grandparents.
Centre right: Mother and Father.
Bottom: My sister on her wedding day. My Brother with his bike. Me and my mum.