Are you old enough to remember 'We'll hang out the washing on the Seigfreid Line'? I am jolly certain that in those days - everyone hung out their washing to dry. My mother lugged a great basket of it down the garden to the lawn (well, the bit of rough grass) and pegged it out, dashing back and forth on damp days to get it in and put it out again. Years later I remember being at my sister's house in Lowestoft on holiday when my brother in law came in and said to my sister," I've just driven down the road in my car and your washing is by far the whitest!" I remember my sister swelling with pride - he couldn't have said anything more flattering, and that includes 'I think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.'
Today in the Times I read that a lady who lives near to Hull, is putting her house on the market because her neighbour insists on hanging out the washing on a line which then spoils her view. It seems that it is a man who is hanging out the washing - and that the said washing includes "his wife's knickers" (shock, horror). All I can say is - a MAN hanging out the washing? Surely that is a first (sorry men, I know that isn't true, but let's say it is a bit unusual.) "Why doesn't he own a dryer, like everyone else?"
Well, I for one have never owned a dryer. To me the smell of washing freshly in from the line and smelling of fresh air is one of the loveliest smells there is- and that comes from someone who lives on a farm where the air is often full of smells I would rather not mention. But somehow the washing doesn't seem to pick that up.
When my previous husband and I lived in Wolverhampton, on the day we moved in we were invited next door for drinks and were told in the nicest possible way that it was a tradition in the cul-de-sac that people only hung out their washing 'during business hours'. As we both worked during business hours, this made for difficulty. We solved it by hanging out washing in the space outside our back door, where we were overlooked by no-one. In fact these neighbours became great friends, but their whole lives were devoted to 'keeping up the standards.'
His brother was a Lord and he tried to maintain that kind of life-style. I clearly remember when, as an old man, he was sent home from hospital in the ambulance. There was nothing more they could do for him and he wished to die at home. As the ambulance drew up outside the house, my husband was mowing our lawn (and yes, if we missed a week he would tell us our lawn was ready to be mown.) My husband stopped mowing and went to help him into the house, where we were met by his wife who told him to sit in the chair and she would get him a cup of tea. He was in his dressing gown and insisted on going to get dressed in his suit and wearing a tie before he sat down for a cup of tea. His words were, "No thank-you dear, I shall get dressed first. We must keep up the standards."
'Keep up the standards' became our catch phrase after that. It was half in fun, and yet there was something to be admired in it too I think.
So I shall continue to hang out my washing every Monday morning (yes, I am old fashioned and still wash on Mondays) - weather permitting. I shall continue to bury my nose in the sheets as I bring them in off the line, smelling the fresh air and the sweetness of the wild flowers as I do so.
I shall not buy a dryer because where I live I think it is totally unnecessary and it uses electricity that I am sure the farmer would rather not pay for. If I lived in a flat, or even in a town, it might be different. But certainly if my neighbour filled the line with washing out to dry, knickers or no knickers, I would even fetch it in for him if it rained and he was out. That's called being a good neighbour!
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