For the first time in her adult life, Ashley Davies has the space to hang her laundry outside and it’s become a source of simple joy.
I love doing my laundry, probably because it’s a task that’s actually achievable: you can see what needs to be done and you know when you’ve done it. Bosh. It hardly ever leaves you lying awake at night punishing yourself for not having done a better job of it.
I’m particularly enjoying doing the laundry this summer because I now have my own garden – for the first time in my adult life. It’s tiny and a bit crap at the moment, but every time I peg out my clothes and watch the breeze billowing them dry, I feel like I’m on vacation.
It’s evocative of carefree childhood summer holidays, when you’d run through the sheets drying on the line like it was the best game ever invented. (And laugh ’til you got hiccups when your siblings’ noses bled profusely after they failed to anticipate the pole hidden behind said sheets.)
And cotton never smells as good as it does when it’s fresh off the line, gently toasted by that too-often timorous beastie, the British sun.
And when friends jokingly comment on it being “a good drying day” while the cruel wind slaps their ears against their cheeks, I nod solemnly while privately anticipating the joy I’ll feel when I see my knick-knocks flapping in the wind.
“You find yourself welcoming winter because you can whack your clothes onto the radiator. It doesn’t matter if your socks dry into strange, crispy shapes – the process is swift and you might even get some epic window condensation going.”
I have a whirligig now, and until recently I didn’t know what these were. I mean, I knew what they were but not what they were called. The man who installed ours had a beautiful Highlands accent, and the way he spoke of “whirrrrligigs” made me imagine them to be mythical creatures dwelling in the misty glens. “Bewarrrre the whirrrrligig, lassie – he’ll steal your unmentionables and your first born…”
One’s laundry facilities generally indicate one’s life stage. Many of us start our adult lives in overcrowded flatshares, with tangled tights drying slowly in grotty bathrooms. There’s often one damp-smelling flatmate who was never taught the principles of emptying the machine promptly. Or we spend interminable hours in laundrettes, feeding coin after coin into hot machines to keep our clothes presentable. It’s bloody expensive being poor.
Then maybe you get your own small place, but still you must engage in that clumsy, awkward pas de deux with those metal clothes horses coated with plastic. Like a Primark vest or Colombian narcotics cop in the movies, their integrity is fleeting.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a tenement flat in Scotland, you might have a drying rack attached to a pulley system. These are brilliant when you’re short of space, but, perplexingly, are often set up in kitchens, so all it takes is one vigilant sniff for everyone at work to know what kind of sausages you had for tea last night.
You find yourself welcoming winter because you can whack your clothes onto the radiator. It doesn’t matter if your socks dry into strange, crispy shapes – the process is swift and you might even get some epic window condensation going.
So yeah, I’m plenty pleased about being able to dry my laundry outside now. I’ve tried pegging fluff from the cat brush to the line – it’s supposed to be useful for nesting birds, but I haven’t had any takers yet, presumably because making a nursery that smells like your number one predator is strange parenting. One for Philip Lark(in) maybe.
Please do excuse me though; it’s pissing it down now and I need to bring the washing in.
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Ashley Davies is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor and the human behind animal satire website thelabreport.co.uk.