Thursday, 3 May 2012

Washing line wars.

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!

26 comments:

Tom Stephenson said...

True, Weave - you cannot beat the aroma of wind-dried sheets. Re the Siegfried Line, I was not alive during WW1, so I have no idea what you are talking about...

ArtPropelled said...

I know the saying well and often use it. It was passed down from generation to generation and I can remember my gran saying she was off to hang the washing on the Siegfried line. My washing hangs on the line but I'm very grateful for my dryer which I use during rainy weather.

Rachel Fox said...

I don't use a dryer either. Like you say, unless you have no other option (in terms of space and time) it's really just a waste of electricity. I've written more than one poem about washing on the line... very old-fashioned of me!
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Brilliant post, Pat! Airy washing lines beat electric dryers any day, for many reasons. A no-brainer.

I do actually enjoy hanging out the washing, even my wife's knickers.

ArcticFox said...

I refuse to get a dryer.... in fact when Dawn moved in with me I made sure her dryer was put into storage. (i.e. at my mum's house of course!!) - YES I do occasionally hang out washing.... yes, I've even been known to bring the washing in when it rains. There is rarely an hour (except when it's raining that we don't have washing on the line and there's rarely a day that Dawn doesn't do some washing (I wouldn't go near a washing machine other than to empty it). As for "unmentionables" - we have a load of them plastic hoop thngs with pegs hanging off them that we use for socks and pants.... they generally dry in the kitchen but on a nice day we just hang those hangers outside as well but Dawn always insists they be at the house end of the washing line!!
As I type.... the kitchen is full of washing in different states of drying/airing.... which reminds me that I'm supposed to be swapping the bed covers today......

steven said...

i love to do my laundry, but hanging out the laundry is something i can't remember seeing for years and years. although i entirely get your point and do remember the very good smell it had when it came inside . . . . when i bike home past jouses with outdoor vents off their dryers i can smell the "spring rain" or "mountain stream" aromas and i can tell you they smell nothing like either!!! steven

Heather said...

I'm afraid I am old enough to remember the Siegfried Line song, but only because it was still being sung during WW2! I think people should be commended for drying laundry out of doors - far more environmentally friendly than using a dryer and it smells so beautifully fresh. I've never had one and can usually find somewhere to hang damp washing inside even if it is draped over the bannisters! I wouldn't want the lady who complained about seeing a neighbour's washing as a neighbour of mine. It is good to keep up standards but that can be taken too far.

Mac n' Janet said...

I started hanging my washing outside a year ago and I too love the smell. My only complaint is that I wish my towels didn't get so stiff.

Mo and Steve said...

The last part of your post rang bells for me. The memory of days when neighbours would take in others washing when it rained. Makes me feel all nostalgic for some reason :)

Pondside said...

Line-dried laundry is one of life's under-valued pleasures. It's hard to get laundry dry here during the winter on the edge of the rain forest, but I have an indoor rack that I use to 'finish' things. I also have an electric dryer that gobbles electricity.
I have an old photo of my long-gone uncle somewhere in Europe during the war, standing in his trousers and undershirt beside a line of his own washing, strung between two trees and labeled The Siegfried Line.

NanU said...

I've been dryer-less for five years now, and life has never been better. Laundry takes a little more planning now, because I don't like it to get rained on, but it's worth it.

angryparsnip said...

I remember when I was younger we always hung the wash out in the yard. In Tucson it gets so sunny and hot in the summer but I hated running out to get it when the fast moving storms blew in. Rain, wind and lighting.
I too loved the smell of fresh laundry just off the line.
I have a dryer and must admit I love using it. Much easier for me.
In Japan everyone hangs the laundry out in the yard or the balconies if the have one. They are really just used for this.

cheers, parsnip

Golden West said...

Yes, Weaver, I too love the smell of air dried clothes - they have a sweetness no mechanical dryer can duplicate. Once we were tall enough, we'd help my mom hang out the clothes in the back yard. You've prompted happy memories for me this morning, some I hadn't thought of in decades.

Reader Wil said...

Whe I was married I hung my laundry outside, but when I started teaching again I hung it inside on the loft. And I still do. It dries much faster than outside.
Thanks for your visit. Yes our Remembrance Day is on 4th May because Liberation Day is on 5th May. Then the Germans surrendered in the Netherlands.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

My grandmother had an astonishing turn of pace when washing was on the line and rainclouds threatened!
She was also one of those who insisted on standards; she wore make-up every day well into her nineties.

Penny said...

I too live with no neighbours to see my line ,love it when washing dries in the wind, but I do have a dryer as well so heavy work pants can dry in winter.

Rachel said...

Doesn't everybody hang their washing outside? I am having much practice at running in and out grabbing it all in between showers at the moment. On the farm it is not at all unusual to see the men doing this if the women are out.

MorningAJ said...

K is very good at hanging out the washing but he's not good at how he does it. You get peg marks in very strange places! But yes, when the weather's right we hang out our smalls - and I really don't care if the neighbours don't like it.

Linda said...

In Newfoundland, the little island that begins Canada in the east, they have many unique expressions. One expression they say for beautiful, sunny breezy weather is, "Some day on the clothes,eh." For the tradition of hanging the clothes on the line to dry is alive and well there. Islands by the sea have the bonus of ocean breezes to dry the laundry and I am sure the sea salts help with whiteness. Further inland where the smog collects around cities, the clothes are not always so fresh. Now that they are allowing us to hang our clothes out again, I will be installing a line. I loved this blog, my mother used to sing the Siegfried Line, while hanging out the sheets. Thanks for sharing, Weaver. =D

Gwil W said...

A few years ago I borrowed a goat because I was too idle to mow the grass - yes, tried to eat my washing!

Hildred and Charles said...

Well, I do feel like a renegade amongst all you lovely line dryers...

For a few years I did hang my washing on the line - at least until our older children were in their late teens, - but then I blessed the day I got a dryer! With six children I found it easy to forego the pleasure of line dried clothes, and I do admit it is a pleasure.

I understand they stuff the scent into spray bottles now, but that's another convenience that has its down side too.

H said...

I have never owned a drier and have no intention of buying one. Whenever the weather is good enough, the washing goes out on the line.
Unfortunately, my lawn would not be considered up to standard at present. It is long and straggly, awaiting a much needed cut. Whenever it has been fine, I've either been out or at work.

Mary said...

I loved drying the washing outside as a child - it was the only way then - except in the colder winter days when it froze like boards!

Peg bags always fascinated me, my Mum would sew up a new one very year - it but had to contain wooden pegs not plastic!

Yes, I use a dryer now however just reading your nice post makes me think, should I, could I, would I, go find a clothes line and somehow tie it to my trees!

Mary X

BT said...

Hello Weaver, well, what a great read. I could hardly believe the people who are moving because of the washing next door. Some people have very very strange ideas! I do own a tumble dryer but very rarely use it. As we get rather a lot of rain I can't always hang mine out but put it on a rack in front of our fire to dry! I love the smell of fresh washing off the line too and I also love to see it hanging out there, all neat and washed and fresh. What is the matter with people today?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to everyone - seems the overwhelming opinion is in favour of hanging out the washing.
Tom - even I was not alive in the first world war!!

Robin Mac said...

I am doing a big catchup of your blogs - thanks for your comments on mine, by the way. I own a dryer, but use it about one or twice a year. I love the smell of freshly laundered sheets, folded straight from the line. I have a rotary clothes hoist now, but grew up with long lines held up by wooden clothes props. Mum had a wood fired copper out in the open in which she boiled everything, till she finally acquired a washing machine in the mid fifties. What an improvement that was. Then the copper was only used for boiling the Christmas ham, or half a dozen plum puddings! The comments are fascinating too. Cheers