On The Line

No, this isn’t a reference to the internet, or the film The Internship.  Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson are funny men though – The Wedding Crashers, The Break-up and Dodgeball are all hilarious.  It’s actually a reference to what I can see out of the window right now as I type – a clothes line loaded with freshly laundered washing, drying naturally in the breeze and emerging sunshine.  All for free.

This is one aspect of my life that I took for granted as a young child, that laundry must hang on the clothes line – I remember playing with the huge clothes prop my mother used to prop up the line when loaded with heavy sheets, pretending it was a lance or pike in some ancient military scene and of course every child knew the dangers of playing with a muddy football anywhere near those clean sheets.  There were consequences.  In my world, tumble dryers didn’t exist until I was about 10 and even then it was a free one my Dad had picked up that was broken.  He fixed it himself and guess what?  Even now in 2019, my mother still uses it in her kitchen when the weather fails to permit the use of more traditional drying methods.  Given that it’s a 1960s Parnell, this is an impressive feat and testament to his electrical skills and desire to always do a job so well it would never need fixing again.

When I got that first house in Brighton, one of the first things that impressed me was the huge 20 feet clothes line and pulley system they had implemented that stretched right across the garden.  Thinking back, I was probably the only person impressed by it, but I was.  I may even have mentioned it to the owners.  Another thing that made that house more affordable was the fact that there was no plumbing or space for a washing machine.  It didn’t put me off at all, coming from the background I had come from, I knew there’d be a solution somewhere, but I bet it put a lot of other people off.  It would probably seem incredible to my children today that even in 1995, there were people washing clothes by hand and putting it on a clothes line, especially in a T.O.T. like Brighton has become.

When I moved in, my Dad helped me out there too.  He spotted a table top portable washing machine in Argos.  I can even remember the price – £39.99.  What an amazing little item – you hooked the pipe up to a mixer tap, plugged it in, stood it in the bath or overhanging a kitchen sink and hey presto – an instant washing machine!  This nifty solution probably sounds primitive today, but I lived with it for 3 years, until 1998 and it always did me.  It’s an early lesson in the shallowness of others that they were probably put off a perfectly fine house by it’s failure to have what was considered an essential.  Even if the solution is close to hand and not expensive to achieve.

In 1998 I upgraded.  Or was that degraded, as this is where the self begins to erode slightly.  Some people decided that this tabletop solution was no longer adequate for a household of 2, perhaps true.  Anyway, a stroll past a second hand shop in Hove or Portslade brought forth a solution, as I saw a top-loading thin-line washing machine – another thing I never previously knew existed.  I believe it was about £60 – it’s interesting to recollect 20+ years later, that I was interested even then in browsing second-hand shops, given my rediscovered interest in the Fleamarkets now.  My Mam and Dad visited Brighton soon after, when my Dad installed a new socket for it, along with plumbing and it became part of the upstairs bathroom.  All for free, family connections are important.

During all this time the clothes remained line dried, whether outside or or a newly-installed line above the bath, but soon I was under pressure to get a tumble dryer.  I bought one and spent a whole afternoon drilling a hole in the wall for the air outflow.  So the decline began – tumble dryers are now my most detested household appliance, if it’s possible to have a most-hated household appliance -is it?  Oh and if I’m allowed a second most-hated, then I’ll go for microwave ovens.

So why are tumble dryers so hated?  Well, for starters, cost.  My Dad was absolutely correct in his statement that Tumble Driers are expensive to run – the electric bills ran up massively after using one.  Then there’s the drying quality – so many times have I seen clothes feeling burnt and stiff after drying, never fitting properly, or shrunk so much they no longer fit at all and have to be chucked out.  Next up, you’ve now lost the relaxing, mentally soothing act of hanging them on a clothes line -or at least that’s how it feels for me.  Finally, to me, tumble dryers are the appliance of the hypocrite, the person who believes in saving the environment or that global warming will soon kill us all, yet still happily blasts the dryer on instead of setting up a line outside, saving electricity and giving that water back to the ground.  I would imagine the same person also proselytises about saving the planet on Facebook using their smartphone, no thought of their own contributions.

I am reminded now of a couple of stories;

One, the time the Mrs White II was coming round to do the washing for us while we were on the summer well, everyone else does it pilgrimage.  When I came back, several of my shirts were shrunk into nothing and had to be thrown out.  From that date onwards I vowed that my shirts must only be washed by me and always line dried, even if the line was inside the house.  I have stuck to that ever since with no shirt casualties.  It may even have been the same trip that she promised to “tidy up the basement” – a statement that filled me with dread.  I was right to dread it, I had to rescue so many things from the bin on my return, including the carrier bag collection.  Every adult has a carrier bag collection, right?  If not, you should, especially in a country where they can cost up to 50p each.

Two, the time in Sittingbourne where it was a national emergency that the tumble dryer door hinge broke.  I had actually forgotten this one, but my own parents had not and reminded me recently.  Apparently, what stuck most in my mother’s mind was my apology for the fact that my mother had hung the washing outside on the clothes line in the height of summer for the clothes to dry naturally, while the tumble dryer was broken.   The fact that my Dad was luckily there to fix the tumble dryer properly and free of charge was not good enough – I should be hiring someone to do it that very day rather than wait 2 days for the part to be in stock at the shop down the road.  This whole incident culminated in someone insisting the tumble dryer must be used and jamming the door of it shut with a broom handle, something my Dad said was bound to either cause a fire or burn out the thermostat.  I never did tell him that not long after the dryer did die…of a broken thermostat.  I feel that drip…drip..drip again.

If I was to analyse it all carefully – and I will since it’s my prerogative here, I would say a tumble dryer is another example of an entitlement culture, the welfare state mindset.  Where I live now, we see few clothes lines and in those shared apartments popular here, there’s always a wash room in the basement with shared facilities, including a number of tumble dryers.  Given that this is included in your rental, a tumble dryer is “free”.  It’s not of course, but to that mindset it is – there is no point in the effort, someone else is ultimately paying for it.  For years, that someone else was me.

Fast forward to 2019 and here we are, a clothes line outside with clothes drying for free gently in the breeze.  What could feel better than that?

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